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478 U.S.

109
106 S.Ct. 2797
92 L.Ed.2d 85

Susan J. DAVIS, et al., Appellants


v.
Irwin C. BANDEMER et al.
No. 84-1244.
Argued Oct. 7, 1985.
Decided June 30, 1986.

Syllabus
The Indiana Legislature consists of a 100-member House of
Representatives and a 50-member Senate. Representatives serve 2-year
terms, with elections for all seats every two years. Senators serve 4-year
terms, with half of the seats up for election every two years. Senators are
elected from single-member districts, while representatives are elected
from a mixture of single-member and multimember districts. In 1981, the
legislature reapportioned the districts pursuant to the 1980 census. At that
time, there were Republican majorities in both the House and the Senate.
The reapportionment plan provided 50 single-member districts for the
Senate and 7 triple-member, 9 double-member, and 61 single-member
districts for the House. The multimember districts generally included the
State's metropolitan areas. In 1982, appellee Indiana Democrats filed suit
in Federal District Court against appellant state officials, alleging that the
1981 reapportionment plan constituted a political gerrymander intended to
disadvantage Democrats, and that the particular district lines that were
drawn and the mix of single-member and multimember districts were
intended to and did violate their right, as Democrats, to equal protection
under the Fourteenth Amendment. In November 1982, before the case
went to trial, elections were held under the new plan. Democratic
candidates for the House received 51.9% of votes cast statewide but only
43 out of the 100 seats to be filled. Democratic candidates for the Senate
received 53.1% of the votes cast statewide, and 13 out of the 25
Democratic candidates were elected. In Marion and Allen Counties, both
divided into multi-member House districts, Democratic candidates drew
46.6% of the vote, but only 3 of the 21 Democratic candidates were

elected. Subsequently, relying primarily on the 1982 election results as


proof of unconstitutionally discriminatory vote dilution, the District Court
invalidated the 1981 reapportionment plan, enjoined appellants from
holding elections pursuant thereto, and ordered the legislature to prepare a
new plan.
Held: The judgment is reversed.
603 F.Supp. 1479, reversed.
Justice WHITE delivered the opinion of the Court with respect to Part II,
concluding that political gerrymandering, such as occurred in this case, is
properly justiciable under the Equal Protection Clause. Here, none of the
identifying characteristics of a nonjusticiable political question are
present. Disposition of the case does not involve this Court in a matter
more properly decided by a coequal branch of the Government. There is
no risk of foreign or domestic disturbance. Nor is this Court persuaded
that there are no judicially discernible and manageable standards by which
political gerrymandering cases are to be decided. The mere fact that there
is no likely arithmetic presumption, such as the "one person, one vote"
rule, in the present context does not compel a conclusion that the claims
presented here are nonjusticiable. The claim is whether each political
group in the State should have the same chance to elect representatives of
its choice as any other political group, and this Court declines to hold that
such claim is never justiciable. That the claim is submitted by a political
group, rather than a racial group, does not distinguish it in terms of
justiciability. Pp. 118-127.
Justice WHITE, joined by Justice BRENNAN, Justice MARSHALL, and
Justice BLACKMUN, concluded in Parts III and IV that the District Court
erred in holding that appellees had alleged and proved a violation of the
Equal Protection Clause. Pp. 127-143.
(a) A threshold showing of discriminatory vote dilution is required for a
prima facie case of an equal protection violation. The District Court's
findings of an adverse effect on appellees do not surmount this threshold
requirement. The mere fact that an apportionment scheme makes it more
difficult for a particular group in a particular district to elect
representatives of its choice does not render that scheme unconstitutional.
A group's electoral power is not unconstitutionally diminished by the fact
that an apportionment scheme makes winning elections more difficult, and
a failure of proportional representation alone does not constitute
impermissible discrimination under the Equal Protection Clause. As with

individual districts, where unconstitutional vote dilution is alleged in the


form of statewide political gerrymandering, as here, the mere lack of
proportional representation will not be sufficient to prove unconstitutional
discrimination. Without specific supporting evidence, a court cannot
presume in such a case that those who are elected will disregard the
disproportionally underrepresented group. Rather, unconstitutional
discrimination occurs only when the electoral system is arranged in a
manner that will consistently degrade a voter's or a group of voters'
influence on the political process as a whole. The District Court's apparent
holding that any interference with an opportunity to elect a representative
of one's choice would be sufficient to allege or prove an equal protection
violation, unless justified by some acceptable state interest, in addition to
being contrary to the above-described conception of an unconstitutional
political gerrymander, would invite attack on all or almost all
reapportionment statutes. Pp. 127-134.
(b) Relying on a single election to prove unconstitutional discrimination,
as the District Court did, is unsatisfactory. Without finding that because of
the 1981 reapportionment the Democrats could not in one of the next few
elections secure a sufficient vote to take control of the legislature, that the
reapportionment would consign the Democrats to a minority status in the
legislature throughout the 1980's, or that they would have no hope of
doing any better in the reapportionment based on the 1990 census, the
District Court erred in concluding that the 1981 reapportionment violated
the Equal Protection Clause. Simply showing that there are multimember
districts and that those districts are constructed so as to be safely
Republican or Democratic in no way bolsters the contention that there has
been a statewide discrimination against Democratic voters. Pp. 134-137.
(c) The view that intentional drawing of district boundaries for partisan
ends and for no other reason violates the Equal Protection Clause would
allow a constitutional violation to be found where the only proven effect
on a political party's electoral power was disproportionate results in one
election (possibly two elections), and would invite judicial interference in
legislative districting whenever a political party suffers at the polls. Even
if a state legislature redistricts with the specific intention of
disadvantaging one political party's election prospects, there has been no
unconstitutional violation against members of that party unless the
redistricting does in fact disadvantage it at the polls. As noted, a mere lack
of proportionate results in one election cannot suffice in this regard. Pp.
138-143.
Justice O'CONNOR, joined by THE CHIEF JUSTICE and Justice

REHNQUIST, concluding that the partisan gerrymandering claims of


major political parties raise a nonjusticiable political question, would
reverse the District Court's judgment on the grounds that appellees' claim
is nonjusticiable. The Equal Protection Clause does not supply judicially
manageable standards for resolving purely political gerrymandering
claims, and does not confer group rights to an equal share of political
power. Racial gerrymandering claims are justiciable because of the
greater warrant the Equal Protection Clause gives the federal courts to
intervene for protection against racial discrimination, and because of the
stronger nexus between individual rights and group interests that is present
in the case of a discrete and insular racial group. But members of the
major political parties cannot claim that they are vulnerable to exclusion
from the political process, and it has not been established that there is a
need or a constitutional basis for judicial intervention to resolve political
gerrymandering claims. The costs of judicial intervention will be severe,
and such intervention requires courts to make policy choices that are not
of a kind suited for judicial discretion. Nor is there any clear stopping
point to prevent the gradual evolution of a requirement of roughly
proportional representation for every cohesive political group.
Accordingly, political gerrymandering claims present a nonjusticiable
political question. Pp. 144-155.
WHITE, J., announced the judgment of the Court and delivered the
opinion of the Court with respect to Part II, in which BRENNAN,
MARSHALL, BLACKMUN, POWELL, and STEVENS, JJ., joined, and
an opinion with respect to Parts I, III, and IV, in which BRENNAN,
MARSHALL, and BLACKMUN, JJ., joined. BURGER, C.J., filed an
opinion concurring in the judgment, post, p. 143. O'CONNOR, J., filed an
opinion concurring in the judgment, in which BURGER, C.J., and
REHNQUIST, J., joined, post, p. 144. POWELL, J., filed an opinion
concurring in part and dissenting in part, in which STEVENS, J., joined,
post, p. 161.
William M. Evans, Indianapolis, Ind., for appellants.
Theodore R. Boehm, Indianapolis, Ind., for appellees.
Justice WHITE announced the judgment of the Court and delivered the
opinion of the Court as to Part II and an opinion as to Parts I, III, and IV,
in which Justice BRENNAN, Justice MARSHALL, and Justice
BLACKMUN join.

In this case, we review a judgment from a three-judge District Court, which


sustained an equal protection challenge to Indiana's 1981 state apportionment
on the basis that the law unconstitutionally diluted the votes of Indiana
Democrats. 603 F.Supp. 1479 (S.D.Ind.1984). Although we find such political
gerrymandering to be justiciable, we conclude that the District Court applied an
insufficiently demanding standard in finding unconstitutional vote dilution.
Consequently, we reverse.

* The Indiana Legislature, also known as the "General Assembly," consists of a


House of Representatives and a Senate. There are 100 members of the House of
Representatives, and 50 members of the Senate. The members of the House
serve 2-year terms, with elections held for all seats every two years. The
members of the Senate serve 4-year terms, and Senate elections are staggered
so that half of the seats are up for election every two years. The members of
both Houses are elected from legislative districts; but, while all Senate
members are elected from single-member districts, House members are elected
from a mixture of single-member and multimember districts. The division of
the State into districts is accomplished by legislative enactment, which is
signed by the Governor into law. Reapportionment is required every 10 years
and is based on the federal decennial census. There is no prohibition against
more frequent reapportionments.

In early 1981, the General Assembly initiated the process of reapportioning the
State's legislative districts pursuant to the 1980 census. At this time, there were
Republican majorities in both the House and the Senate, and the Governor was
Republican.1 Bills were introduced in both Houses, and a reapportionment plan
was duly passed and approved by the Governor.2 This plan provided 50 singlemember districts for the Senate; for the House, it provided 7 triple-member, 9
double-member, and 61 single-member districts. In the Senate plan, the
population deviation between districts was 1.15%; in the House plan, the
deviation was 1.05%. The multimember districts generally included the more
metropolitan areas of the State, although not every metropolitan area was in a
multimember district. Marion County, which includes Indianapolis, was
combined with portions of its neighboring counties to form five triple-member
districts. Fort Wayne was divided into two parts, and each part was combined
with portions of the surrounding county or counties to make two triple-member
districts. On the other hand, South Bend was divided and put partly into a
double-member district and partly into a single-member district (each part
combined with part of the surrounding county or counties). Although county
and city lines were not consistently followed, township lines generally were.
The two plans, the Senate and the House, were not nested; that is, each Senate
district was not divided exactly into two House districts. There appears to have

been little relation between the lines drawn in the two plans.
4

In early 1982, this suit was filed by several Indiana Democrats (here the
appellees) against various state officials (here the appellants), alleging that the
1981 reapportionment plans constituted a political gerrymander intended to
disadvantage Democrats. Specifically, they contended that the particular district
lines that were drawn and the mix of single-member and multimember districts
were intended to and did violate their right, as Democrats, to equal protection
under the Fourteenth Amendment. A three-judge District Court was convened
to hear these claims.

In November 1982, before the case went to trial, elections were held under the
new districting plan. All of the House seats and half of the Senate seats were up
for election. Over all the House races statewide, Democratic candidates
received 51.9% of the vote. Only 43 Democrats, however, were elected to the
House. Over all the Senate races statewide, Democratic candidates received
53.1% of the vote. Thirteen (of twenty-five) Democrats were elected. In Marion
and Allen Counties, both divided into multi-member House districts,
Democratic candidates drew 46.6% of the vote, but only 3 of the 21 House
seats were filled by Democrats.

On December 13, 1984, a divided District Court issued a decision declaring the
reapportionment to be unconstitutional, enjoining the appellants from holding
elections pursuant to the 1981 redistricting, ordering the General Assembly to
prepare a new plan, and retaining jurisdiction over the case. See 603 F.Supp.
1479.

To the District Court majority, the results of the 1982 elections seemed "to
support an argument that there is a built-in bias favoring the majority party, the
Republicans, which instituted the reapportionment plan." Id., at 1486. Although
the court thought that these figures were unreliable predictors of future
elections, it concluded that they warranted further examination of the
circumstances surrounding the passage of the reapportionment statute. See
ibid.3 In the course of this further examination, the court noted the irregular
shape of some district lines, the peculiar mix of single-member and
multimember districts,4 and the failure of the district lines to adhere
consistently to political subdivision boundaries to define communities of
interest. The court also found inadequate the other explanations given for the
configuration of the districts, such as adherence to the one person, one vote
imperative and the Voting Rights Act's no retrogression requirement. These
factors, concluded the court, evidenced an intentional effort to favor
Republican incumbents and candidates and to disadvantage Democratic voters.5

This was achieved by "stacking" Democrats into districts with large Democratic
majorities and "splitting" them in other districts so as to give Republicans safe
but not excessive majorities in those districts.6 Because the 1982 elections
indicated that the plan also had a discriminatory effect in that the proportionate
voting influence of Democratic voters had been adversely affected and because
any scheme "which purposely inhibit[s] or prevent[s] proportional
representation cannot be tolerated," id., at 1492, the District Court invalidated
the statute.7
8

The defendants appealed, seeking review of the District Court's rulings that the
case was justiciable and that, if justiciable, an equal protection violation had
occurred.8 We noted probable jurisdiction. 470 U.S. 1083, 105 S.Ct. 1840, 85
L.Ed.2d 140 (1985).

II
9

We address first the question whether this case presents a justiciable


controversy or a nonjusticiable political question. Although the District Court
never explicitly stated that the case was justiciable, its holding clearly rests on
such a finding. The appellees urge that this Court has in the past acknowledged
and acted upon the justiciability of purely political gerrymandering claims. The
appellants contend that we have affirmed on the merits decisions of lower
courts finding such claims to be nonjusticiable.

A.
10

Since Baker v. Carr, 369 U.S. 186, 82 S.Ct. 691, 7 L.Ed.2d 663 (1962), we
have consistently adjudicated equal protection claims in the legislative
districting context regarding inequalities in population between districts. In the
course of these cases, we have developed and enforced the "one person, one
vote" principle. See, e.g., Reynolds v. Sims, 377 U.S. 533, 84 S.Ct. 1362, 12
L.Ed.2d 506 (1964).

11

Our past decisions also make clear that even where there is no population
deviation among the districts, racial gerrymandering presents a justiciable equal
protection claim. In the multimember district context, we have reviewed, and
on occasion rejected, districting plans that unconstitutionally diminished the
effectiveness of the votes of racial minorities. See Rogers v. Lodge, 458 U.S.
613, 102 S.Ct. 3272, 73 L.Ed.2d 1012 (1982); Mobile v. Bolden, 446 U.S. 55,
100 S.Ct. 1490, 64 L.Ed.2d 47 (1980); White v. Regester, 412 U.S. 755, 93
S.Ct. 2332, 37 L.Ed.2d 314 (1973); Whitcomb v. Chavis, 403 U.S. 124, 91 S.Ct.
1858, 29 L.Ed.2d 363 (1971); Burns v. Richardson, 384 U.S. 73, 86 S.Ct. 1286,

16 L.Ed.2d 376 (1966); Fortson v. Dorsey, 379 U.S. 433, 85 S.Ct. 498, 13
L.Ed.2d 401 (1965). We have also adjudicated claims that the configuration of
single-member districts violated equal protection with respect to racial and
ethnic minorities, although we have never struck down an apportionment plan
because of such a claim. See United Jewish Organizations of Williamsburgh,
Inc. v. Carey, 430 U.S. 144, 97 S.Ct. 996, 51 L.Ed.2d 229 (1977); Wright v.
Rockefeller, 376 U.S. 52, 84 S.Ct. 603, 11 L.Ed.2d 512 (1964).
12

In the multimember district cases, we have also repeatedly stated that


districting that would "operate to minimize or cancel out the voting strength of
racial or political elements of the voting population" would raise a
constitutional question. Fortson, supra, 379 U.S., at 439, 85 S.Ct., at 501
(emphasis added). See also Gaffney v. Cummings, 412 U.S. 735, 751, 93 S.Ct.
2321, 2330, 37 L.Ed.2d 298 (1973); Whitcomb v. Chavis, supra, 403 U.S., at
143, 91 S.Ct., at 1869; Burns v. Richardson, supra, 384 U.S., at 88, 86 S.Ct., at
1294. Finally, in Gaffney v. Cummings, supra, we upheld against an equal
protection political gerrymandering challenge a state legislative single-member
redistricting scheme that was formulated in a bipartisan effort to try to provide
political representation on a level approximately proportional to the strength of
political parties in the State. In that case, we adjudicated the type of purely
political equal protection claim that is brought here, although we did not, as a
threshold matter, expressly hold such a claim to be justiciable. Regardless of
this lack of a specific holding, our consideration of the merits of the claim in
Gaffney in the face of a discussion of justiciability in appellant's brief,
combined with our repeated reference in other opinions to the constitutional
deficiencies of plans that dilute the vote of political groups, at the least supports
an inference that these cases are justiciable.

13

In the years since Baker v. Carr, both before and after Gaffney, however, we
have also affirmed a number of decisions in which the lower courts rejected the
justiciability of purely political gerrymandering claims. In WMCA, Inc. v.
Lomenzo, 382 U.S. 4, 86 S.Ct. 24, 15 L.Ed.2d 2 (1965), summarily aff'g 238
F.Supp. 916 (SDNY), the most frequently cited of these cases, we affirmed the
decision of a three-judge District Court upholding a temporary apportionment
plan for the State of New York. The District Court had determined that political
gerrymandering equal protection challenges to this plan were nonjusticiable.
See id., at 925-926. Justice Harlan, in his opinion concurring in the Court's
summary affirmance, expressed his understanding that the affirmance was
based on the Court's approval of the lower court's finding of nonjusticiability.
See 382 U.S., at 6, 86 S.Ct., at 26. See also Jimenez v. Hidalgo County Water
Improvement District No. 2, 424 U.S. 950, 96 S.Ct. 1423, 47 L.Ed.2d 357
(1976), summarily aff'g 68 F.R.D. 668 (SD Tex.1975); Ferrell v. Hall, 406 U.S.

939, 92 S.Ct. 2045, 32 L.Ed.2d 328 (1972), summarily aff'g 339 F.Supp. 73
(WD Okla.); Wells v. Rockefeller, 398 U.S. 901, 90 S.Ct. 1696, 26 L.Ed.2d 60
(1970), summarily aff'g 311 F.Supp. 48 (SDNY). Although these summary
affirmances arguably support an inference that these claims are not justiciable,
there are other cases in which federal or state courts adjudicated political
gerrymandering claims and we summarily affirmed or dismissed for want of a
substantial federal question. See, e.g., Wiser v. Hughes, 459 U.S. 962, 103 S.Ct.
286, 74 L.Ed.2d 272 (1982), dismissing for want of a substantial federal
question an appeal from In re Legislative Districting, 299 Md. 658, 475 A.2d
428; Kelly v. Bumpers, 413 U.S. 901, 93 S.Ct. 3047, 37 L.Ed.2d 1019 (1973),
summarily aff'g 340 F.Supp. 568 (ED Ark.1972); Archer v. Smith, 409 U.S.
808, 93 S.Ct. 62, 34 L.Ed.2d 68 (1972), summarily aff'g Graves v. Barnes, 343
F.Supp. 704, 734 (WD Tex.).
14

These sets of cases may look in different directions, but to the extent that our
summary affirmances indicate the nonjusticiability of political gerrymander
cases, we are not bound by those decisions. As we have observed before, "[i]t
is not at all unusual for the Court to find it appropriate to give full consideration
to a question that has been the subject of previous summary action."
Washington v. Yakima Indian Nation, 439 U.S. 463, 477, n. 20, 99 S.Ct. 740,
749, n. 20, 58 L.Ed.2d 740 (1979). See also Edelman v. Jordan, 415 U.S. 651,
670-671, 94 S.Ct. 1347, 1359-1360, 39 L.Ed.2d 662 (1974). The issue that the
appellants would have us find to be precluded by these summary dispositions is
an important one, and it deserves further consideration.

B
15

The outlines of the political question doctrine were described and to a large
extent defined in Baker v. Carr. The synthesis of that effort is found in the
following passage in the Court's opinion:

16

"It is apparent that several formulations which vary slightly according to the
settings in which the questions arise may describe a political question, although
each has one or more elements which identify it as essentially a function of the
separation of powers. Prominent on the surface of any case held to involve a
political question is found a textually demonstrable constitutional commitment
of the issue to a coordinate political department; or a lack of judicially
discoverable and manageable standards for resolving it; or the impossibility of
deciding without an initial policy determination of a kind clearly for nonjudicial
discretion; or the impossibility of a court's undertaking independent resolution
without expressing lack of the respect due coordinate branches of government;
or an unusual need for unquestioning adherence to a political decision already

made; or the potentiality of embarrassment from multifarious pronouncements


by various departments on one question.
17

"Unless one of these formulations is inextricable from the case at bar, there
should be no dismissal for nonjusticiability on the ground of a political
question's presence. The doctrine of which we treat is one of 'political
questions,' not one of 'political cases.' The courts cannot reject as 'no law suit' a
bona fide controversy as to whether some action denominated 'political'
exceeds constitutional authority. The cases we have reviewed show the
necessity for discriminating inquiry into the precise facts and posture of the
particular case, and the impossibility of resolution by any semantic
cataloguing." 369 U.S., at 217, 82 S.Ct., at 710.

18

In Baker, the Court applied this analysis to an equal protection claim based on a
state legislative apportionment that allowed substantial disparities in the
number of voters represented by each state representative. See id., at 253-258,
82 S.Ct., at 729-732 (Clark, J., concurring). In holding that claim to be
justiciable, the Court concluded that none of the identifying characteristics of a
political question were present:

19

"The question here is the consistency of state action with the Federal
Constitution. We have no question decided, or to be decided, by a political
branch of government coequal with this Court. Nor do we risk embarrassment
of our government abroad, or grave disturbance at home if we take issue with
Tennessee as to the constitutionality of her action here challenged. Nor need the
appellants, in order to succeed in this action, ask the Court to enter upon policy
determinations for which judicially manageable standards are lacking. Judicial
standards under the Equal Protection Clause are well developed and familiar,
and it has been open to courts since the enactment of the Fourteenth
Amendment to determine, if on the particular facts they must, that a
discrimination reflects no policy, but simply arbitrary and capricious action."
Id., at 226, 84 S.Ct., at 715.

20

This analysis applies equally to the question now before us. Disposition of this
question does not involve us in a matter more properly decided by a coequal
branch of our Government. There is no risk of foreign or domestic disturbance,
and in light of our cases since Baker we are not persuaded that there are no
judicially discernible and manageable standards by which political gerrymander
cases are to be decided.

21

It is true that the type of claim that was presented in Baker v. Carr was

subsequently resolved in this Court by the formulation of the "one person, one
vote" rule. See, e.g., Reynolds v. Sims, 377 U.S., at 557-561, 84 S.Ct., at 13791381. The mere fact, however, that we may not now similarly perceive a likely
arithmetic presumption in the instant context does not compel a conclusion that
the claims presented here are nonjusticiable. The one person, one vote principle
had not yet been developed when Baker was decided. At that time, the Court
did not rely on the potential for such a rule in finding justiciability. Instead, as
the language quoted above clearly indicates, the Court contemplated simply
that legislative line drawing in the districting context would be susceptible of
adjudication under the applicable constitutional criteria.
22

Furthermore, in formulating the one person, one vote formula, the Court
characterized the question posed by election districts of disparate size as an
issue of fair representation. In such cases, it is not that anyone is deprived of a
vote or that any person's vote is not counted. Rather, it is that one electoral
district elects a single representative and another district of the same size elects
two or morethe elector's vote in the former district having less weight in the
sense that he may vote for and his district be represented by only one legislator,
while his neighbor in the adjoining district votes for and is represented by two
or more. Reynolds accordingly observed:

23

"Since the achieving of fair and effective representation for all citizens is
concededly the basic aim of legislative apportionment, we conclude that the
Equal Protection Clause guarantees the opportunity for equal participation by
all voters in the election of State legislators. Diluting the weight of votes
because of place of residence impairs basic constitutional rights under the
Fourteenth Amendment just as much as invidious discriminations based upon
factors such as race. . . ." 377 U.S., at 565-566, 84 S.Ct., at 1383-1384.

24

Reynolds surely indicates the justiciability of claims going to the adequacy of


representation in state legislatures.

25

The issue here is of course different from that adjudicated in Reynolds. It does
not concern districts of unequal size. Not only does everyone have the right to
vote and to have his vote counted, but each elector may vote for and be
represented by the same number of lawmakers. Rather, the claim is that each
political group in a State should have the same chance to elect representatives
of its choice as any other political group. Nevertheless, the issue is one of
representation, and we decline to hold that such claims are never justiciable.

26

Our racial gerrymander cases such as White v. Regester and Whitcomb v.

Chavis indicate as much. In those cases, there was no population variation


among the districts, and no one was precluded from voting. The claim instead
was that an identifiable racial or ethnic group had an insufficient chance to elect
a representative of its choice and that district lines should be redrawn to remedy
this alleged defect. In both cases, we adjudicated the merits of such claims,
rejecting the claim in Whitcomb and sustaining it in Regester. Just as clearly, in
Gaffney v. Cummings, where the districts also passed muster under the
Reynolds formula, the claim was that the legislature had manipulated district
lines to afford political groups in various districts an enhanced opportunity to
elect legislators of their choice. Although advising caution, we said that "we
must . . . respond to [the] claims . . . that even if acceptable populationwise, the
. . . plan was invidiously discriminatory because a 'political fairness principle'
was followed. . . ." 412 U.S., at 751-752, 93 S.Ct., at 2330-2331 (emphasis
added). We went on to hold that the statute at issue did not violate the Equal
Protection Clause.
27

These decisions support a conclusion that this case is justiciable. As Gaffney


demonstrates, that the claim is submitted by a political group, rather than a
racial group, does not distinguish it in terms of justiciability. That the
characteristics of the complaining group are not immutable or that the group has
not been subject to the same historical stigma may be relevant to the manner in
which the case is adjudicated, but these differences do not justify a refusal to
entertain such a case.

28

In fact, Justice O'CONNOR's attempt to distinguish this political


gerrymandering claim from the racial gerrymandering claims that we have
consistently adjudicated demonstrates the futility of such an effort. Her
conclusion that the claim in this case is not justiciable seems to rest on a dual
concern that no judicially manageable standards exist and that adjudication of
such claims requires an initial policy decision that the judiciary should not
make. Yet she does not point out how the standards that we set forth here for
adjudicating this political gerrymandering claim are less manageable than the
standards that have been developed for racial gerrymandering claims. Nor does
she demonstrate what initial policy decisionregarding, for example, the
desirability of fair group representationwe have made here that we have not
made in the race cases.9 She merely asserts that because race has historically
been a suspect classification individual minority voters' rights are more
immediately related to a racial minority group's voting strength. This, in
combination with "the greater warrant the Equal Protection Clause gives the
federal courts to intervene for protection against racial discrimination, suffice to
render racial gerrymandering claims justiciable." Post, at 151 (O'CONNOR, J.,
concurring in judgment).

29

Reliance on these assertions to determine justiciability would transform the


narrow categories of "political questions" that Baker v. Carr carefully defined
into an ad hoc litmus test of this Court's reactions to the desirability of and need
for judicial application of constitutional or statutory standards to a given type of
claim. Justice O'CONNOR's own discussion seems to reflect such an approach:
She concludes that because political gerrymandering may be a "self-limiting
enterprise" there is no need for judicial intervention. Post, at 152. She also
expresses concern that our decision today will lead to "political instability and
judicial malaise," post, at 147, because nothing will prevent members of other
identifiable groups from bringing similar claims. To begin with, Justice
O'CONNOR's factual assumptions are by no means obviously correct: It is not
clear that political gerrymandering is a self-limiting enterprise or that other
groups will have any great incentive to bring gerrymandering claims, given the
requirement of a showing of discriminatory intent. At a more fundamental level,
however, Justice O'CONNOR's analysis is flawed because it focuses on the
perceived need for judicial review and on the potential practical problems with
allowing such review. Validation of the consideration of such amorphous and
wide-ranging factors in assessing justiciability would alter substantially the
analysis the Court enunciated in Baker v. Carr, and we decline Justice
O'CONNOR's implicit invitation to rethink that approach.

III
30

Having determined that the political gerrymandering claim in this case is


justiciable, we turn to the question whether the District Court erred in holding
that the appellees had alleged and proved a violation of the Equal Protection
Clause.

A.
31

Preliminarily, we agree with the District Court that the claim made by the
appellees in this case is a claim that the 1981 apportionment discriminates
against Democrats on a statewide basis. Both the appellees and the District
Court have cited instances of individual districting within the State which they
believe exemplify this discrimination, but the appellees' claim, as we
understand it, is that Democratic voters over the State as a whole, not
Democratic voters in particular districts, have been subjected to
unconstitutional discrimination. See, e.g., Complaint of Bandemer Plaintiffs 37. Although the statewide discrimination asserted here was allegedly
accomplished through the manipulation of individual district lines, the focus of
the equal protection inquiry is necessarily somewhat different from that
involved in the review of individual districts.

32

We also agree with the District Court that in order to succeed the Bandemer
plaintiffs were required to prove both intentional discrimination against an
identifiable political group and an actual discriminatory effect on that group.
See, e.g., Mobile v. Bolden, 446 U.S., at 67-68, 100 S.Ct., at 1499-1500.
Further, we are confident that if the law challenged here had discriminatory
effects on Democrats, this record would support a finding that the
discrimination was intentional. Thus, we decline to overturn the District Court's
finding of discriminatory intent as clearly erroneous.

33

Indeed, quite aside from the anecdotal evidence, the shape of the House and
Senate Districts, and the alleged disregard for political boundaries, we think it
most likely that whenever a legislature redistricts, those responsible for the
legislation will know the likely political composition of the new districts and
will have a prediction as to whether a particular district is a safe one for a
Democratic or Republican candidate or is a competitive district that either
candidate might win. As we said in Gaffney v. Cummings, 412 U.S., at 752-753,
93 S.Ct., at 2331-2332:

34

"It would be idle, we think, to contend that any political consideration taken
into account in fashioning a reapportionment plan is sufficient to invalidate it.
Our cases indicate quite the contrary. See White v. Regester, [412 U.S. 755, 93
S.Ct. 2332, 37 L.Ed.2d 314 (1973) ]; Burns v. Richardson, [384 U.S. 73, 86
S.Ct. 1286, 16 L.Ed.2d 376 (1966) ]; Whitcomb v. Chavis, [403 U.S. 124, 91
S.Ct. 1858, 29 L.Ed.2d 363 (1971) ]; Abate v. Mundt, [403 U.S. 182, 91 S.Ct.
1904, 29 L.Ed.2d 399 (1971) ]. The very essence of districting is to produce a
differenta more 'politically fair'result than would be reached with elections
at large, in which the winning party would take 100% of the legislative seats.
Politics and political considerations are inseparable from districting and
apportionment. The political profile of a State, its party registration, and voting
records are available precinct by precinct, ward by ward. These subdivisions
may not be identical with census tracts, but, when overlaid on a census map, it
requires no special genius to recognize the political consequences of drawing a
district line along one street rather than another. It is not only obvious, but
absolutely unavoidable, that the location and shape of districts may well
determine the political complexion of the area. District lines are rarely neutral
phenomena. They can well determine what district will be predominantly
Democratic or predominantly Republican, or make a close race likely.
Redistricting may pit incumbents against one another or make very difficult the
election of the most experienced legislator. The reality is that districting
inevitably has and is intended to have substantial political consequences.

35

"It may be suggested that those who redistrict and reapportion should work

with census, not political, data and achieve population equality without regard
for political impact. But this politically mindless approach may produce,
whether intended or not, the most grossly gerrymandered results; and, in any
event, it is most unlikely that the political impact of such a plan would remain
undiscovered by the time it was proposed or adopted, in which event the results
would be both known and, if not changed, intended."10
36

As long as redistricting is done by a legislature, it should not be very difficult to


prove that the likely political consequences of the reapportionment were
intended.11

B
37

We do not accept, however, the District Court's legal and factual bases for
concluding that the 1981 Act visited a sufficiently adverse effect on the
appellees' constitutionally protected rights to make out a violation of the Equal
Protection Clause. The District Court held that because any apportionment
scheme that purposely prevents proportional representation is unconstitutional,
Democratic voters need only show that their proportionate voting influence has
been adversely affected. 603 F.Supp., at 1492. Our cases, however, clearly
foreclose any claim that the Constitution requires proportional representation or
that legislatures in reapportioning must draw district lines to come as near as
possible to allocating seats to the contending parties in proportion to what their
anticipated statewide vote will be. Whitcomb v. Chavis, 403 U.S., at 153, 156,
160, 91 S.Ct., at 1874, 1876, 1878; White v. Regester, 412 U.S., at 765-766, 93
S.Ct., at 2339-2340.

38

The typical election for legislative seats in the United States is conducted in
described geographical districts, with the candidate receiving the most votes in
each district winning the seat allocated to that district. If all or most of the
districts are competitivedefined by the District Court in this case as districts
in which the anticipated split in the party vote is within the range of 45% to
55%even a narrow statewide preference for either party would produce an
overwhelming majority for the winning party in the state legislature. This
consequence, however, is inherent in winner-take-all, district-based elections,
and we cannot hold that such a reapportionment law would violate the Equal
Protection Clause because the voters in the losing party do not have
representation in the legislature in proportion to the statewide vote received by
their party candidates. As we have said: "[W]e are unprepared to hold that
district-based elections decided by plurality vote are unconstitutional in either
single- or multi-member districts simply because the supporters of losing
candidates have no legislative seats assigned to them." Whitcomb v. Chavis,

supra, 403 U.S., at 160, 91 S.Ct., at 1878. This is true of a racial as well as a
political group. White v. Regester, supra, 412 U.S., at 765-766, 93 S.Ct., at
2339-2340. It is also true of a statewide claim as well as an individual district
claim.
39

To draw district lines to maximize the representation of each major party would
require creating as many safe seats for each party as the demographic and
predicted political characteristics of the State would permit. This in turn would
leave the minority in each safe district without a representative of its choice.
We upheld this "political fairness" approach in Gaffney v. Cummings, despite
its tendency to deny safe district minorities any realistic chance to elect their
own representatives. But Gaffney in no way suggested that the Constitution
requires the approach that Connecticut had adopted in that case.

40

In cases involving individual multimember districts, we have required a


substantially greater showing of adverse effects than a mere lack of
proportional representation to support a finding of unconstitutional vote
dilution. Only where there is evidence that excluded groups have "less
opportunity to participate in the political processes and to elect candidates of
their choice" have we refused to approve the use of multimember districts.
Rogers v. Lodge, 458 U.S., at 624, 102 S.Ct., at 3279. See also United Jewish
Organizations of Williamsburgh, Inc. v. Carey, 430 U.S., at 167, 97 S.Ct., at
1010; White v. Regester, supra, 412 U.S., at 765-766, 93 S.Ct., at 2339-2340;
Whitcomb v. Chavis, supra, 403 U.S., at 150, 91 S.Ct., at 1872. In these cases,
we have also noted the lack of responsiveness by those elected to the concerns
of the relevant groups. See Rogers v. Lodge, supra, 458 U.S., at 625-627, 102
S.Ct., at 3279-3281; White v. Regester, supra, 412 U.S., at 766-767, 93 S.Ct., at
2339-2340.12

41

These holdings rest on a conviction that the mere fact that a particular
apportionment scheme makes it more difficult for a particular group in a
particular district to elect the representatives of its choice does not render that
scheme constitutionally infirm. This conviction, in turn, stems from a
perception that the power to influence the political process is not limited to
winning elections. An individual or a group of individuals who votes for a
losing candidate is usually deemed to be adequately represented by the winning
candidate and to have as much opportunity to influence that candidate as other
voters in the district. We cannot presume in such a situation, without actual
proof to the contrary, that the candidate elected will entirely ignore the interests
of those voters. This is true even in a safe district where the losing group loses
election after election. Thus, a group's electoral power is not unconstitutionally
diminished by the simple fact of an apportionment scheme that makes winning

elections more difficult, and a failure of proportional representation alone does


not constitute impermissible discrimination under the Equal Protection Clause.
See Mobile v. Bolden, 446 U.S., at 111, n. 7, 100 S.Ct., at 1523, n. 7
(MARSHALL, J., dissenting).
42

As with individual districts, where unconstitutional vote dilution is alleged in


the form of statewide political gerrymandering, the mere lack of proportional
representation will not be sufficient to prove unconstitutional discrimination.
Again, without specific supporting evidence, a court cannot presume in such a
case that those who are elected will disregard the disproportionately
underrepresented group. Rather, unconstitutional discrimination occurs only
when the electoral system is arranged in a manner that will consistently degrade
a voter's or a group of voters' influence on the political process as a whole.

43

Although this is a somewhat different formulation than we have previously


used in describing unconstitutional vote dilution in an individual district, the
focus of both of these inquiries is essentially the same.13 In both contexts, the
question is whether a particular group has been unconstitutionally denied its
chance to effectively influence the political process. In a challenge to an
individual district, this inquiry focuses on the opportunity of members of the
group to participate in party deliberations in the slating and nomination of
candidates, their opportunity to register and vote, and hence their chance to
directly influence the election returns and to secure the attention of the winning
candidate. Statewide, however, the inquiry centers on the voters' direct or
indirect influence on the elections of the state legislature as a whole. And, as in
individual district cases, an equal protection violation may be found only where
the electoral system substantially disadvantages certain voters in their
opportunity to influence the political process effectively. In this context, such a
finding of unconstitutionality must be supported by evidence of continued
frustration of the will of a majority of the voters or effective denial to a
minority of voters of a fair chance to influence the political process.

44

Based on these views, we would reject the District Court's apparent holding
that any interference with an opportunity to elect a representative of one's
choice would be sufficient to allege or make out an equal protection violation,
unless justified by some acceptable state interest that the State would be
required to demonstrate. In addition to being contrary to the above-described
conception of an unconstitutional political gerrymander, such a low threshold
for legal action would invite attack on all or almost all reapportionment
statutes. District-based elections hardly ever produce a perfect fit between votes
and representation. The one-person, one-vote imperative often mandates
departure from this result as does the no-retrogression rule required by 5 of

the Voting Rights Act. Inviting attack on minor departures from some supposed
norm would too much embroil the judiciary in second-guessing what has
consistently been referred to as a political task for the legislature, a task that
should not be monitored too closely unless the express or tacit goal is to effect
its removal from legislative halls. We decline to take a major step toward that
end, which would be so much at odds with our history and experience.
45

The view that a prima facie case of illegal discrimination in reapportionment


requires a showing of more than a de minimis effect is not unprecedented.
Reapportionment cases involving the one person, one vote principle such as
Gaffney v. Cummings and White v. Regester provide support for such a
requirement. In the present, considerably more complex context, it is also
appropriate to require allegations and proof that the challenged legislative plan
has had or will have effects that are sufficiently serious to require intervention
by the federal courts in state reapportionment decisions.14

C
46

The District Court's findings do not satisfy this threshold condition to stating
and proving a cause of action. In reaching its conclusion, the District Court
relied primarily on the results of the 1982 elections: Democratic candidates for
the State House of Representatives had received 51.9% of the votes cast
statewide and Republican candidates 48.1%; yet, out of the 100 seats to be
filled, Republican candidates won 57 and Democrats 43. In the Senate, 53.1%
of the votes were cast for Democratic candidates and 46.9% for Republicans; of
the 25 Senate seats to be filled, Republicans won 12 and Democrats 13. The
court also relied upon the use of multimember districts in Marion and Allen
Counties, where Democrats or those inclined to vote Democratic in 1982
amounted to 46.6% of the population of those counties but Republicans won
86%18 of 21seats allocated to the districts in those counties. These
disparities were enough to require a neutral justification by the State, which in
the eyes of the District Court was not forthcoming. 15

47

Relying on a single election to prove unconstitutional discrimination is


unsatisfactory. The District Court observed, and the parties do not disagree, that
Indiana is a swing State. Voters sometimes prefer Democratic candidates, and
sometimes Republican. The District Court did not find that because of the 1981
Act the Democrats could not in one of the next few elections secure a sufficient
vote to take control of the assembly. Indeed, the District Court declined to hold
that the 1982 election results were the predictable consequences of the 1981
Act and expressly refused to hold that those results were a reliable prediction of
future ones. The District Court did not ask by what percentage the statewide

Democratic vote would have had to increase to control either the House or the
Senate. The appellants argue here, without a persuasive response from the
appellees, that had the Democratic candidates received an additional few
percentage points of the votes cast statewide, they would have obtained a
majority of the seats in both houses. Nor was there any finding that the 1981
reapportionment would consign the Democrats to a minority status in the
Assembly throughout the 1980's or that the Democrats would have no hope of
doing any better in the reapportionment that would occur after the 1990 census.
Without findings of this nature, the District Court erred in concluding that the
1981 Act violated the Equal Protection Clause.
48

The District Court's discussion of the multimember districts created by the


1981 Act does not undermine this conclusion. For the purposes of the statewide
political gerrymandering claim, these districts appear indistinguishable from
safe Republican and safe Democratic single-member districts. Simply showing
that there are multimember districts in the State and that those districts are
constructed so as to be safely Republican or Democratic in no way bolsters the
contention that there has been statewide discrimination against Democratic
voters. It could be, were the necessary threshold effect to be shown, that
multimember districts could be demonstrated to be suspect on the ground that
they are particularly useful in attaining impermissibly discriminatory ends; at
this stage of the inquiry, however, the multi-member district evidence does not
materially aid the appellees' case.

49

Furthermore, in determining the constitutionality of multi-member districts


challenged as racial gerrymanders, we have rejected the view that "any group
with distinctive interests must be represented in legislative halls if it is
numerous enough to command at least one seat and represents a minority living
in an area sufficiently compact to constitute a single-member district."
Whitcomb, 403 U.S., at 156, 91 S.Ct., at 1875. Rather, we have required tht
there be proof that the complaining minority "had less opportunity . . . to
participate in the political processes and to elect legislators of their choice." Id.,
at 149, 91 S.Ct., at 1872. In Whitcomb, we went on to observe that there was no
proof that blacks were not allowed to register or vote, to choose the political
party they desired to support, to participate in its affairs or to be equally
represented on those occasions when candidates were chosen, or to be included
among the candidates slated by the Democratic Party. Against this background,
we concluded that the failure of the minority "to have legislative seats in
proportion to its population emerges more as a function of losing elections than
of built-in bias against poor Negroes. The voting power of ghetto residents may
have been 'cancelled out' as the District Court held, but this seems a mere
euphemism for political defeat at the polls." Id., at 153, 91 S.Ct., at 1874.

Whitcomb accordingly rejected a challenge to multimember districts in Marion


County, Indiana. A similar challenge was sustained in White v. Regester, but
only by employing the same criterion, namely, that the plaintiffs must produce
evidence to support a finding "that the political processes leading to nomination
and election were not equally open to participation by the group in question
that its members had less opportunity than did other residents in the district to
participate in the political processes and to elect legislators of their choice." 412
U.S., at 766, 93 S.Ct., at 2339.
50

This participatory approach to the legality of individual multimember districts


is not helpful where the claim is that such districts discriminate against
Democrats, for it could hardly be said that Democrats, any more than
Republicans, are excluded from participating in the affairs of their own party or
from the processes by which candidates are nominated and elected. For
constitutional purposes, the Democratic claim in this case, insofar as it
challenges vel non the legality of the multimember districts in certain counties,
is like that of the Negroes in Whitcomb who failed to prove a racial
gerrymander, for it boils down to a complaint that they failed to attract a
majority of the voters in the challenged multimember districts.16

D
51

In response to our approach, Justice POWELL suggests an alternative method


for evaluating equal protection claims of political gerrymandering. In his view,
courts should look at a number of factors in considering these claims: the
nature of the legislative procedures by which the challenged redistricting was
accomplished and the intent behind the redistricting; the shapes of the districts
and their conformity with political subdivision boundaries; and "evidence
concerning population disparities and statistics tending to show vote dilution."
Post, at 173 (concurring in part and dissenting in part). The District Court in
this case reviewed these factors in reaching its ultimate conclusion that
unconstitutional vote dilution had occurred, and Justice POWELL concludes
that its findings on these factorsand on the ultimate question of vote
discriminationshould be upheld. According to Justice POWELL, those
findings adequately support a conclusion that "the boundaries of the voting
districts have been distorted deliberately and arbitrarily to achieve illegitimate
ends." Post, at 165. This deliberate and arbitrary distortion of boundaries, in
turn, apparently distinguishes gerrymandering in a "loose" sense, "the common
practice of the party in power to choose the redistricting plan that gives it an
advantage at the polls," post, at 164, from gerrymandering in an
"unconstitutional" sense.

52

Although we are not completely clear as to the distinction between these two
categories of gerrymander, the crux of Justice POWELL's analysis seems to be
thatat least in some casesthe intentional drawing of district boundaries for
partisan ends and for no other reason violates the Equal Protection Clause in
and of itself. We disagree, however, with this conception of a constitutional
violation. Specifically, even if a state legislature redistricts with the specific
intention of disadvantaging one political party's election prospects, we do not
believe that there has been an unconstitutional discrimination against members
of that party unless the redistricting does in fact disadvantage it at the polls.

53

Moreover, as we discussed above, a mere lack of proportionate results in one


election cannot suffice in this regard. We have reached this conclusion in our
cases involving challenges to individual multimember districts, and it applies
equally here. In the individual multimember district cases, we have found equal
protection violations only where a history of disproportionate results appeared
in conjunction with strong indicia of lack of political power and the denial of
fair representation. See supra, at 131. In those cases, the racial minorities
asserting the successful equal protection claims had essentially been shut out of
the political process.17 In the statewide political gerrymandering context, these
prior cases lead to the analogous conclusion that equal protection violations
may be found only where a history (actual or projected) of disproportionate
results appears in conjunction with similar indicia. The mere lack of control of
the General Assembly after a single election does not rise to the requisite level.

54

This requirement of more than a showing of possibly transitory results is where


we appear to depart from Justice POWELL. Stripped of its "factors" verbiage,
Justice POWELL's analysis turns on a determination that a lack of
proportionate election results can support a finding of an equal protection
violation, at least in some circumstances. Here, the only concrete effect on the
Democrats in Indiana in terms of election results that the District Court had
before it was one election in which the percentage of Democrats elected was
lower than the percentage of total Democratic votes cast.18 In Justice
POWELL's view, this disproportionality, when combined with clearly
discriminatory intent on the part of the 1981 General Assembly and the
manipulation of district lines in the apportionment process, is sufficient to
conclude that fair representation has been denied.

55

The factors other than disproportionate election results, however, do not


contribute to a finding that Democratic voters have been disadvantaged in fact.
They support a finding that an intention to discriminate was present and that
districts were drawn in accordance with that intention, but they do not show any

actual disadvantage beyond that shown by the election results: It surely cannot
be an actual disadvantage in terms of fair representation on a group level just to
be placed in a district with a supermajority of other Democratic voters or a
district that departs from pre-existing political boundaries. Only when such
placement affects election results and political power statewide has an actual
disadvantage occurred.

56

Consequently, Justice POWELL's view would allow a constitutional violation


to be found where the only proven effect on a political party's electoral power
was disproportionate results in one (or possibly two) elections. This view,
however, contains no explanation of why a lack of proportionate election
results should suffice in these political gerrymandering cases while it does not
in the cases involving racial gerrymandering. In fact, Justice POWELL's
opinion is silent as to the relevance of the substantive standard developed in the
multimember district cases to these political gerrymandering cases.

57

In rejecting Justice POWELL's approach, we do not mean to intimate that the


factors he considers are entirely irrelevant. The election results obviously are
relevant to a showing of the effects required to prove a political gerrymandering
claim under our view. And the district configurations may be combined with
vote projections to predict future election results, which are also relevant to the
effects showing. The other factors, even if not relevant to the effects issue,
might well be relevant to an equal protection claim. The equal protection
argument would proceed along the following lines: If there were a
discriminatory effect and a discriminatory intent, then the legislation would be
examined for valid underpinnings. Thus, evidence of exclusive legislative
process and deliberate drawing of district lines in accordance with accepted
gerrymandering principles would be relevant to intent, and evidence of valid
and invalid configuration would be relevant to whether the districting plan met
legitimate state interests.

58

This course is consistent with our equal protection cases generally and is the
course we follow here: We assumed that there was discriminatory intent, found
that there was insufficient discriminatory effect to constitute an equal protection
violation,19 and therefore did not reach the question of the state interests
(legitimate or otherwise) served by the particular districts as they were created
by the legislature. Consequently, the valid or invalid configuration of the
districts was an issue we did not need to consider.20

59

It seems inappropriate, however, to view these separate components of an equal


protection analysis as "factors" to be considered together without regard for
their separate functions or meaning. This undifferentiated consideration of the

various factors confuses the import of each factor and disguises the essential
conclusion of Justice POWELL's opinion: that disproportionate election results
alone are a sufficient effect to support a finding of a constitutional violation.
60

In sum, we decline to adopt the approach enunciated by Justice POWELL. In


our view, that approach departs from our past cases and invites judicial
interference in legislative districting whenever a political party suffers at the
polls. We recognize that our own view may be difficult of application.
Determining when an electoral system has been "arranged in a manner that will
consistently degrade a voter's or a group of voters' influence on the political
process as a whole," supra, at 132, is of necessity a difficult inquiry. 21
Nevertheless, we believe that it recognizes the delicacy of intruding on this
most political of legislative functions and is at the same time consistent with
our prior cases regarding individual multimember districts, which have
formulated a parallel standard.22

IV
61

In sum, we hold that political gerrymandering cases are properly justiciable


under the Equal Protection Clause. We also conclude, however, that a threshold
showing of discriminatory vote dilution is required for a prima facie case of an
equal protection violation. In this case, the findings made by the District Court
of an adverse effect on the appellees do not surmount the threshold
requirement. Consequently, the judgment of the District Court is

62

Reversed.

63

Chief Justice BURGER, concurring in the judgment.

64

I join Justice O'CONNOR's opinion.

65

It is not surprising that citizens who are troubled by gerrymandering turn first
to the courts for redress. De Tocqueville, that perceptive commentator on our
country, observed that "[s]carcely any question arises in the United States
which does not become, sooner or later, a subject of judicial debate." 1 A. De
Tocqueville, Democracy in America 330 (H. Reeve trans. 1961). What I
question is the Court's urge to craft a judicial remedy for this perceived
"injustice." In my view, the Framers of the Constitution envisioned quite a
different scheme. They placed responsibility for correction of such flaws in the
people, relying on them to influence their elected representatives. As Justice
Frankfurter wrote when the Court entered this political arena:

66

"The Framers carefully and with deliberate forethought refused so to enthrone


the judiciary. In this situation, as in others of like nature, appeal for relief does
not belong here. Appeal must be to an informed, civically militant electorate. In
a democratic society like ours, relief must come through an aroused popular
conscience that sears the conscience of the people's representatives. In any
event there is nothing judicially more unseemly nor more self-defeating than
for this Court to make in terrorem pronouncements, to indulge in merely empty
rhetoric, sounding a word of promise to the ear, sure to be disappointing to the
hope." Baker v. Carr, 369 U.S. 186, 270, 82 S.Ct. 691, 739, 7 L.Ed.2d 663
(1962) (dissenting opinion).

67

Justice O'CONNOR, with whom THE CHIEF JUSTICE and Justice


REHNQUIST join, concurring in the judgment.

68

Today the Court holds that claims of political gerrymandering lodged by


members of one of the political parties that make up our two-party system are
justiciable under the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.
Nothing in our precedents compels us to take this step, and there is every reason
not to do so. I would hold that the partisan gerrymandering claims of major
political parties raise a nonjusticiable political question that the judiciary should
leave to the legislative branch as the Framers of the Constitution
unquestionably intended. Accordingly, I would reverse the District Court's
judgment on the grounds that appellees' claim is nonjusticiable.

69

There can be little doubt that the emergence of a strong and stable two-party
system in this country has contributed enormously to sound and effective
government. The preservation and health of our political institutions, state and
federal, depends to no small extent on the continued vitality of our two-party
system, which permits both stability and measured change. The opportunity to
control the drawing of electoral boundaries through the legislative process of
apportionment is a critical and traditional part of politics in the United States,
and one that plays no small role in fostering active participation in the political
parties at every level. Thus, the legislative business of apportionment is
fundamentally a political affair, and challenges to the manner in which an
apportionment has been carried outby the very parties that are responsible for
this processpresent a political question in the truest sense of the term.

70

To turn these matters over to the federal judiciary is to inject the courts into the
most heated partisan issues. It is predictable that the courts will respond by
moving away from the nebulous standard a plurality of the Court fashions
today and toward some form of rough proportional representation for all
political groups. The consequences of this shift will be as immense as they are

unfortunate. I do not believe, and the Court offers not a shred of evidence to
suggest, that the Framers of the Constitution intended the judicial power to
encompass the making of such fundamental choices about how this Nation is to
be governed. Nor do I believe that the proportional representation towards
which the Court's expansion of equal protection doctrine will lead is consistent
with our history, our traditions, or our political institutions.
71

The Court pays little heed to these considerations, which should inform any
sensible jurisprudence of Article III and of the Equal Protection Clause. The
Court's reflexive application of precedent ignores the maxim that "[p]articularly
in dealing with claims under broad provisions of the Constitution, which derive
content by an interpretative process of inclusion and exclusion, it is imperative
that generalizations, based on and qualified by the concrete situations that gave
rise to them, must not be applied out of context in disregard of variant
controlling facts." Gomillion v. Lightfoot, 364 U.S. 339, 343-344, 81 S.Ct. 125,
128-129, 5 L.Ed.2d 110 (1960). In cases such as this one, which may
profoundly affect the governance of this Nation, it is not enough to cite
precedent: we should examine it for possible limits, and if they are lacking, for
possible flaws.

72

* Appellees are Indiana Democrats who claim that Indiana's 1981 state
apportionment discriminates against Democrats on a statewide basis by diluting
their votes, thereby depriving them of "their proportionate share of political
influence." Baker v. Carr, 369 U.S. 186, 299, 82 S.Ct. 691, 754-755, 7 L.Ed.2d
663 (1962) (Frankfurter, J., dissenting). The Court, relying principally on Baker
v. Carr, supra, Reynolds v. Sims, 377 U.S. 533, 84 S.Ct. 1362, 12 L.Ed.2d 506
(1964), Gaffney v. Cummings, 412 U.S. 735, 93 S.Ct. 2321, 37 L.Ed.2d 298
(1973), and the line of racial gerrymandering cases including Rogers v. Lodge,
458 U.S. 613, 102 S.Ct. 3272, 73 L.Ed.2d 1012 (1982), and White v. Regester,
412 U.S. 755, 93 S.Ct. 2332, 37 L.Ed.2d 314 (1973), holds that appellees'
"purely political equal protection claim," ante, at 119, does not present a
political question and is therefore justiciable. Specifically, the Court holds that
the fact that a vote dilution claim "is submitted by a political group, rather than
a racial group, does not distinguish it in terms of justiciability." Ante, at 125.

73

A plurality of the Court recognizes, however, that "[i]nviting attack on minor


departures from some supposed norm would too much embroil the judiciary in
second-guessing what has consistently been referred to as a political task for the
legislature, a task that should not be monitored too closely unless the express or
tacit goal is to effect its removal from legislative halls." Ante, at 133.
Accordingly, although the plurality's analysis is generally modeled on the racial
gerrymandering cases, the plurality would require a somewhat different

threshold showing that the apportionment has discriminatory effects:


"unconstitutional discrimination occurs only when the electoral system is
arranged in a manner that will consistently degrade a voter's or a group of
voters' influence on the political process as a whole." Ante, at 132.
74

The step taken today is a momentous one, which if followed in the future can
only lead to political instability and judicial malaise. If members of the major
political parties are protected by the Equal Protection Clause from dilution of
their voting strength, then members of every identifiable group that possesses
distinctive interests and tends to vote on the basis of those interests should be
able to bring similar claims. Federal courts will have no alternative but to
attempt to recreate the complex process of legislative apportionment in the
context of adversary litigation in order to reconcile the competing claims of
political, religious, ethnic, racial, occupational, and socioeconomic groups.
Even if there were some way of limiting such claims to organized political
parties, the fact remains that the losing party or the losing group of legislators
in every reapportionment will now be invited to fight the battle anew in federal
court. Apportionment is so important to legislators and political parties that the
burden of proof the plurality places on political gerrymandering plaintiffs is
unlikely to deter the routine lodging of such complaints. Notwithstanding the
plurality's threshold requirement of discriminatory effects, the Court's holding
that political gerrymandering claims are justiciable has opened the door to
pervasive and unwarranted judicial superintendence of the legislative task of
apportionment. There is simply no clear stopping point to prevent the gradual
evolution of a requirement of roughly proportional representation for every
cohesive political group.

75

In my view, this enterprise is flawed from its inception. The Equal Protection
Clause does not supply judicially manageable standards for resolving purely
political gerrymandering claims, and no group right to an equal share of
political power was ever intended by the Framers of the Fourteenth
Amendment. The Court rests its case on precedent, but the cases on which the
Court relies do not require that we take this next and most far-reaching step into
the "political thicket." Colegrove v. Green, 328 U.S. 549, 556, 66 S.Ct. 1198,
1201, 90 L.Ed. 1432 (1946) (opinion of Frankfurter, J.).

76

Baker v. Carr reaffirmed that a lawsuit will be held to involve a political


question where there is "a lack of judicially discoverable and manageable
standards for resolving it," or where "the impossibility of deciding without an
initial policy determination of a kind clearly for nonjudicial discretion" is
apparent. 369 U.S., at 217, 82 S.Ct., at 710. The Court first found a workable
constitutional standard for applying the Equal Protection Clause to state

legislative districting in Reynolds v. Sims, supra. But until today the Court has
not extended the principles of Baker v. Carr and Reynolds v. Sims to test a
legislative districting plan on grounds of partisan political gerrymandering.
Indeed, one year after Reynolds v. Sims, the Court was unanimous in summarily
affirming a judgment determining that a political gerrymandering challenge was
nonjusticiable; as Justice Harlan pointed out, the Court's action constituted a
rejection of "contentions that . . . partisan 'gerrymandering' may be subject to
federal constitutional attack under the Fourteenth Amendment." WMCA, Inc. v.
Lomenzo, 382 U.S. 4, 6, 86 S.Ct. 24, 26, 15 L.Ed.2d 2 (1965) (concurring
opinion).
77

The question raised again today, 21 years later, is whether a court can apply the
familiar "[j]udicial standards under the Equal Protection Clause," Baker v.
Carr, 369 U.S., at 226, 82 S.Ct., at 715, without being forced to make a
nonjudicial policy determination or to resort to a standard that is not judicially
manageable. In order to answer that question, it is necessary to interpret the
Equal Protection Clause. As Justice Harlan pointed out in his dissent in Baker
v. Carr, "[t]he suggestion . . . that courts lack standards by which to decide such
cases as this, is relevant not only to the question of 'justiciability,' but also, and
perhaps more fundamentally, to the determination whether any cognizable
constitutional claim has been asserted in this case." Id., at 337, 82 S.Ct., at 774.
Baker v. Carr itself involved just such an initial interpretation of the Equal
Protection Clause: the Court in effect ruled that an arbitrary and capricious
discrimination against individual voters with respect to the weight of their votes
would state a cognizable claim under the Equal Protection Clause. See id., at
226, 82 S.Ct., at 715; id., at 338-339, 82 S.Ct., at 775-776 (Harlan, J.,
dissenting). That threshold determination about the reach and meaning of the
Equal Protection Clause was the basis for the Court's holding that the
complaint of the Tennessee voters was justiciable. Even this "arbitrary and
capricious" standard threatened to prove unmanageable, but the difficulty was
pretermitted when a relatively simple and judicially manageable requirement of
population equality among districts was adopted the following Term in
Reynolds v. Sims. See Bickel, The Supreme Court and Reapportionment, in
Reapportionment in the 1970's, pp. 57, 64 (N. Polsby ed. 1971).

78

Baker v. Carr does not require that we hold that the right asserted in this case is
similarly within the intendment of the Equal Protection Clause and
determinable under the standards developed to enforce that Clause. The right
asserted in Baker v. Carr was an individual right to a vote whose weight was
not arbitrarily subjected to "debasement," 369 U.S., at 194, 82 S.Ct., at 697698. The rights asserted in this case are group rights to an equal share of
political power and representation, and the "arbitrary and capricious" standard

discussed in Baker v. Carr cannot serve as the basis for recognizing such rights.
Indeed, the Court today does not rely on such a standard.
79

Instead, the Court justifies the extension of vote dilution claims to mainstream
political groups with the pronouncement that "Reynolds surely indicates the
justiciability of claims going to the adequacy of representation in state
legislatures." Ante, at 124. But Reynolds makes plain that the one person, one
vote principle safeguards the individual's right to vote, not the interests of
political groups: "To the extent that a citizen's right to vote is debased, he is
that much less a citizen. The fact that an individual lives here or there is not a
legitimate reason for overweighting or diluting the efficacy of his vote." 377
U.S., at 567, 84 S.Ct., at 1384. For that reason, "an individual's right to vote for
state legislators is unconstitutionally impaired when its weight is in a
substantial fashion diluted when compared with votes of citizens living in other
parts of the State." Id., at 568, 84 S.Ct., at 1385. Thus, the right guaranteed by
the Equal Protection Clause as interpreted in Reynolds is "the right of each
voter to 'have his vote weighted equally with those of all other citizens.' "
Mobile v. Bolden, 446 U.S. 55, 78, 100 S.Ct. 1490, 1505, 64 L.Ed.2d 47 (1980)
(plurality opinion).

80

In the case of mainstream political groups, the Court has not accepted the
argument that an "asserted entitlement to group representation," Bolden, 446
U.S., at 77, 100 S.Ct., at 1505, can be traced to the one person, one vote
principle:

81

"It is, of course, true that the right of a person to vote on an equal basis with
other voters draws much of its significance from the political associations that
its exercise reflects, but it is an altogether different matter to conclude that
political groups themselves have an independent constitutional claim to
representation. And the Court's decisions hold squarely that they do not." Id., at
78-79, 100 S.Ct., at 1506 (citing United Jewish Organizations of
Williamsburgh, Inc. v. Carey, 430 U.S. 144, 97 S.Ct. 996, 51 L.Ed.2d 229
(1977); White v. Regester, 412 U.S. 755, 93 S.Ct. 2332, 37 L.Ed.2d 314 (1973);
and Whitcomb v. Chavis, 403 U.S. 124, 91 S.Ct. 1858, 29 L.Ed.2d 363 (1971)).

82

Where representation is apportioned substantially on a population basis, it is


"obvious that nobody's vote has been 'diluted' in the sense in which that word
was used in the Reynolds case." Bolden, supra, 446 U.S., at 78, 100 S.Ct., at
1505. Thus, the individual's right to vote does not imply that political groups
have a right to be free from discriminatory impairment of their group voting
strength. Treating the vote dilution claims of political groups as cognizable
would effectively collapse the "fundamental distinction between state action

that inhibits an individual's right to vote and state action that affects the
political strength of various groups that compete for leadership in a
democratically governed community." Bolden, supra, at 83, 100 S.Ct., at 1508
(STEVENS, J., concurring in judgment).
83

Nor do this Court's racial gerrymandering cases require the recognition of any
such group right outside the context of racial discrimination. As Justice
Frankfurter observed:

84

"The cases involving Negro disfranchisement are no exception to the principle


of avoiding federal judicial intervention into matters of state government in the
absence of an explicit and clear constitutional imperative. For here the
controlling command of Supreme Law is plain and unequivocal. An end of
discrimination against the Negro was the compelling motive of the Civil War
Amendments. The Fifteenth expresses this in terms, and it is no less true of the
Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth. Slaughter-House Cases, [83 U.S.
36] 16 Wall. 36, 67-72 [21 L.Ed. 394]; Strauder v. West Virginia, 100 U.S. 303,
306-307 [10 Otto 303, 25 L.Ed. 664]; Nixon v. Herndon, 273 U.S. 536, 541 [47
S.Ct. 446, 447, 71 L.Ed. 759]." Baker v. Carr, 369 U.S., at 285-286, 82 S.Ct.,
at 747 (dissenting opinion).

85

In my view, where a racial minority group is characterized by "the traditional


indicia of suspectness" and is vulnerable to exclusion from the political process,
San Antonio Independent School District v. Rodriguez, 411 U.S. 1, 28, 93 S.Ct.
1278, 1294, 36 L.Ed.2d 16 (1973); see also Johnson v. Robison, 415 U.S. 361,
375, n. 14, 94 S.Ct. 1160, 1169, n. 14, 39 L.Ed.2d 389 (1974), individual voters
who belong to that group enjoy some measure of protection against intentional
dilution of their group voting strength by means of racial gerrymandering. As a
matter of past history and present reality, there is a direct and immediate
relationship between the racial minority's group voting strength in a particular
community and the individual rights of its members to vote and to participate in
the political process. In these circumstances, the stronger nexus between
individual rights and group interests, and the greater warrant the Equal
Protection Clause gives the federal courts to intervene for protection against
racial discrimination, suffice to render racial gerrymandering claims justiciable.
Even so, the individual's right is infringed only if the racial minority group can
prove that it has "essentially been shut out of the political process." Ante, at
139.

86

Clearly, members of the Democratic and Republican Parties cannot claim that
they are a discrete and insular group vulnerable to exclusion from the political
process by some dominant group: these political parties are the dominant

groups, and the Court has offered no reason to believe that they are incapable of
fending for themselves through the political process. Indeed, there is good
reason to think that political gerrymandering is a self-limiting enterprise. See B.
Cain, The Reapportionment Puzzle 151-159 (1984). In order to gerrymander,
the legislative majority must weaken some of its safe seats, thus exposing its
own incumbents to greater risks of defeatrisks they may refuse to accept past
a certain point. Id., at 154-155. Similarly, an overambitious gerrymander can
lead to disaster for the legislative majority: because it has created more seats in
which it hopes to win relatively narrow victories, the same swing in overall
voting strength will tend to cost the legislative majority more and more seats as
the gerrymander becomes more ambitious. Id., at 152. More generally, each
major party presumably has ample weapons at its disposal to conduct the
partisan struggle that often leads to a partisan apportionment, but also often
leads to a bipartisan one. There is no proof before us that political
gerrymandering is an evil that cannot be checked or cured by the people or by
the parties themselves. Absent such proof, I see no basis for concluding that
there is a need, let alone a constitutional basis, for judicial intervention.
87

The plurality agrees that it would be unwise to "embroil the judiciary in secondguessing what has consistently been referred to as a political task for the
legislature." Ante, at 133. Moreover, the plurality is willing to presume that
elected candidates will not ignore the interests of voters for the losing
candidate, and it correctly observes that "the power to influence the political
process is not limited to winning elections." Ante, at 132. But these propositions
support my positionthat the costs of judicial intervention will be severe and
that political gerrymandering simply does not cause intolerable harm to the
ability of major political groups to advance their interests.

88

Moreover, the new group right created by today's decision is particularly


unjustifiable in the context of the claim here, which is founded on a supposed
diminution of the statewide voting influence of a political group. None of the
elections for the Indiana Legislature are statewide. Voters in each district elect
their representatives from that district. To treat the loss of candidates nominated
by the party of a voter's choice as a harm to the individual voter, when that
voter cannot vote for such candidates and is not represented by them in any
direct sense, clearly exceeds the limits of the Equal Protection Clause. On the
Court's reasoning, members of a political party in one State should be able to
challenge a congressional districting plan adopted in any other State, on the
grounds that their party is unfairly represented in that State's congressional
delegation, thus injuring them as members of the national party.

89

The Court's reliance on Gaffney v. Cummings, 412 U.S. 735, 93 S.Ct. 2321, 37

L.Ed.2d 298 (1973), is insufficient to overcome these objections to a general


group right to equal political representation. Although Gaffney treated a
political gerrymandering claim as justiciable, the opinion's observation that
"districting inevitably has and is intended to have substantial political
consequences," id., at 753, 93 S.Ct., at 2331, and its reluctance to undertake
"the impossible task of extirpating politics from what are the essentially
political processes of the sovereign States," id., at 754, 93 S.Ct., at 2332, would
equally support a holding that whatever harms political gerrymandering may
sometimes occasion should be tolerated as inextricably associated with the
legislative business of redistricting. In addition, since Gaffney rejected the
challenge to bipartisan gerrymandering out of hand, the Court simply did not
confront the difficulties in framing a manageable standard for adjudicating such
claims. Accordingly, Gaffney should not bar a full consideration of those
difficulties here.
90

Furthermore, the Court fails to explain why a bipartisan gerrymanderwhich


is what was approved in Gaffneyaffects individuals any differently than a
partisan gerrymander, which the Court makes vulnerable to constitutional
challenge today. In Gaffney, Connecticut, as part of a bipartisan effort, had
drawn up a plan intended to "provide a rough sort of proportional
representation," id., at 754, 93 S.Ct., at 2332, for the two major political parties.
The Court declined to invalidate this plan, which undertook "not to minimize or
eliminate the political strength of any group or party, but to recognize it," ibid.,
and suggested that "judicial interest should be at its lowest ebb when a State
purports fairly to allocate political power to the parties in accordance with their
voting strength and, within quite tolerable limits, succeeds in doing so." Ibid.
(citations omitted).

91

A bipartisan gerrymander employs the same technique, and has the same effect
on individual voters, as does a partisan gerrymander. In each instance, groups
of individuals are assigned to districts with an eye towards promoting the ends
of a political party and its incumbent legislators. Some groups within each party
will lose any chance to elect a representative who belongs to their party,
because they have been assigned to a district in which the opposing party holds
an overwhelming advantage. Independent voters may lose any chance to
influence the outcome of elections in their district, if one party has a sufficiently
strong majority. As the plurality acknowledges, the scheme upheld in Gaffney
tended to "deny safe district minorities any realistic chance to elect their own
representatives." Ante, at 131. If this bipartisan arrangement between two
groups of self-interested legislators is constitutionally permissible, as I believe
and as the Court held in Gaffney, thenin terms of the rights of individualsit
should be equally permissible for a legislative majority to employ the same

means to pursue its own interests over the opposition of the other party.
92

The Court's determination to treat the claims of mainstream political parties as


justiciable thus emerges as precisely the sort of "initial policy determination of
a kind clearly for nonjudicial discretion" that Baker v. Carr recognized as
characteristic of political questions. 369 U.S., at 217, 82 S.Ct., at 710. The
Court has in effect decided that it is constitutionally acceptable for both parties
to "waste" the votes of individuals through a bipartisan gerrymander, so long as
the parties themselves are not deprived of their group voting strength to an
extent that will exceed the plurality's threshold requirement. This choice
confers greater rights on powerful political groups than on individuals; that
cannot be the meaning of the Equal Protection Clause.

II
93

The standard the plurality proposes exemplifies the intractable difficulties in


deriving a judicially manageable standard from the Equal Protection Clause for
adjudicating political gerrymandering claims. The plurality rejects any standard
that would require drawing "district lines to come as near as possible to
allocating seats to the contending parties in proportion to what their anticipated
statewide vote will be," ante, at 130, and states that "unconstitutional
discrimination occurs only when the electoral system is arranged in a manner
that will consistently degrade a voter's or a group of voters' influence on the
political process as a whole." Ante, at 132. In my view, this standard will over
time either prove unmanageable and arbitrary or else evolve towards some
loose form of proportionality. Cf. Shapiro, Gerrymandering, Unfairness, and
the Supreme Court, 33 UCLA L.Rev. 227, 252-256 (1985). Either outcome
would be calamitous for the federal courts, for the States, and for our two-party
system.

94

Vote dilution analysis is far less manageable when extended to major political
parties than if confined to racial minority groups. First, an increase in the
number of competing claims to equal group representation will make judicial
review of apportionment vastly more complex. Designing an apportionment
plan that does not impair or degrade the voting strength of several groups is
more difficult than designing a plan that does not have such an effect on one
group for the simple reason that, as the number of criteria the plan must meet
increases, the number of solutions that will satisfy those criteria will decrease.
Even where it is not impossible to reconcile the competing claims of political,
racial, and other groups, the predictable result will be greater judicial intrusion
into the apportionment process.

95

Second, while membership in a racial group is an immutable characteristic,


voters canand often domove from one party to the other or support
candidates from both parties. Consequently, the difficulty of measuring voting
strength is heightened in the case of a major political party. It is difficult
enough to measure "a voter's or a group of voters' influence on the political
process as a whole," ante, at 132, when the group is a racial minority in a
particular district or community. When the group is a major political party the
difficulty is greater, and the constitutional basis for intervening far more
tenuous.

96

Moreover, any such intervention is likely to move in the direction of


proportional representation for political parties. This is clear by analogy to the
problem that arises in racial gerrymandering cases: "in order to decide whether
an electoral system has made it harder for minority voters to elect the
candidates they prefer, a court must have an idea in mind of how hard it 'should'
be for minority voters to elect their preferred candidates under an acceptable
system." Thornburg v. Gingles, 478 U.S. 30, 88, 106 S.Ct. 2752, 2786, 92
L.Ed.2d 25 (O'CONNOR, J., concurring in judgment). Any such norm must
make some reference, even if only a loose one, to the relation between the
racial minority group's share of the electorate and its share of the elected
representatives. In order to implement the plurality's standard, it will thus be
necessary for courts to adopt an analogous norm, in order to assess whether the
voting strength of a political party has been "degraded" by an apportionment,
either on a statewide basis or in particular districts. Absent any such norm, the
inquiry the plurality proposes would be so standardless as to make the
adjudication of political gerrymandering claims impossible.

97

Implicit in the plurality's opinion today is at least some use of simple


proportionality as the standard for measuring the normal representational
entitlements of a political party. That is why the plurality can say that "a history
(actual or projected) of disproportionate results," together with proof of "the
denial of fair representation" and of "lack of political power," will constitute an
equal protection violation. Ante, at 139. To be sure, the plurality has qualified
its use of a standard of proportional representation in a variety of ways so as to
avoid a requirement of proportional representation. The question is whether
these qualifications are likely to be enduring in the face of the tremendous
political pressures that courts will confront when called on to decide political
gerrymandering claims. Because the most easily measured indicia of political
power relate solely to winning and losing elections, there is a grave risk that the
plurality's various attempts to qualify and condition the group right the Court
has created will gradually pale in importance. What is likely to remain is a
loose form of proportionality, under which some deviations from

proportionality are permissible, but any significant, persistent deviations from


proportionality are suspect. Courts will be forced to look for some form of
"undue" disproportionality with respect to electoral success if political
gerrymandering claims are justiciable, because otherwise they will find their
decisions turning on imponderables such as whether the legislators of one party
have fairly represented the voters of the other.
98

Of course, in one sense a requirement of proportional representation, whether


loose or absolute, is judicially manageable. If this Court were to declare that the
Equal Protection Clause required proportional representation within certain
fixed tolerances, I have no doubt that district courts would be able to apply this
edict. The flaw in such a pronouncement, however, would be the use of the
Equal Protection Clause as the vehicle for making a fundamental policy choice
that is contrary to the intent of its Framers and to the traditions of this Republic.
The political question doctrine as articulated in Baker v. Carr rightly requires
that we refrain from making such policy choices in order to evade what would
otherwise be a lack of judicially manageable standards. See 369 U.S., at 217, 82
S.Ct., at 710.

99

Unfortunately, a drift towards proportional representation is apparent even in


the plurality opinion. Although at times the plurality seems to require that the
political party be "essentially . . . shut out of the political process" before a
constitutional violation will be found, ante, at 139, the plurality's explanation of
the deficiencies in the District Court's approach focuses not on access to the
political process as a whole, but entirely on statewide electoral success. Thus,
the critical inquiry appears to be into whether the complaining political party
could be expected to regain control of the state legislature in the next few
elections if backed by a majority of voters. Ante, at 135-136. As an aid in this
inquiry, courts must apparently also ask "by what percentage the statewide . . .
vote" for the complaining political party would have to increase to control the
legislature or one of its Houses. Ibid.

100 Under the plurality's approach, where it is shown that under a challenged
apportionment plan one party will consistently fail to gain control of the
legislature even if it wins a majority of the votes, a court would be justified in
finding the "threshold showing" met, at which point "the legislation would be
examined for valid underpinnings." Ante, at 141. It may fairly be doubted that
this last step is anything more than a formality, except perhaps in the case of
bipartisan gerrymanders that have proved unexpectedly favorable to one party.
Consequently, although the plurality criticizes Justice POWELL for effectively
concluding that "disproportionate election results alone are a sufficient effect to
support a finding of a constitutional violation," ante, at 142, the plurality itself

arrives at the conclusion that foreseeable, disproportionate long-term election


results suffice to prove a constitutional violation.
101 Thus, the plurality opinion ultimately rests on a political preference for
proportionalitynot an outright claim that proportional results are required, but
a conviction that the greater the departure from proportionality, the more
suspect an apportionment plan becomes. This preference for proportionality is
in serious tension with essential features of state legislative elections.
Districting itself represents a middle ground between winner-take-all statewide
elections and proportional representation for political parties. If there is a
constitutional preference for proportionality, the legitimacy of districting itself
is called into question: the voting strength of less evenly distributed groups will
invariably be diminished by districting as compared to at-large proportional
systems for electing representatives. Moreover, one implication of the
districting system is that voters cast votes for candidates in their districts, not
for a statewide slate of legislative candidates put forward by the parties.
Consequently, efforts to determine party voting strength presuppose a norm
that does not existstatewide elections for representatives along party lines.
102 The plurality's theory is also internally inconsistent. The plurality recognizes
that, given a normal dispersion of party strength and winner-take-all, districtbased elections, it is likely that even a narrow statewide preference for one
party will give that party a disproportionately large majority in the legislature.
Ante, at 130. The plurality is prepared to tolerate this effect, because not to do
so would spell the end of district-based elections, or require reverse
gerrymandering to ensure greater proportionality for the minority party. But
this means that the plurality would extend greater protection to a party that can
command a majority of the statewide vote than to a party that cannot: the
explanation, once again, is that the plurality has made a political judgmentin
this instance, that district-based elections must be taken as a given.
103 Because a statewide majority for a party's candidates will frequently result only
if the "winning" party attracts independent voters and voters from the other
party, under the plurality's approach a great deal will turn on whether the
support of these voters is included as part of the party's voting strength. The
plurality would reserve this question, but, however it is ultimately answered,
anomalies will result. To measure a party's voting strength by including voters
who only occasionally vote for that party's candidates is arbitrary; to ignore the
role these voters play will be to further discriminate against parties that do not
command a permanent majority of the electorate in a given State.
104 I would avoid the difficulties generated by the plurality's efforts to confine the

effects of a generalized group right to equal representation by not recognizing


such a right in the first instance. To allow district courts to strike down
apportionment plans on the basis of their prognostications as to the outcome of
future elections or future apportionments invites "findings" on matters as to
which neither judges nor anyone else can have any confidence. Once it is
conceded that "a group's electoral power is not unconstitutionally diminished by
the simple fact of an apportionment scheme that makes winning elections more
difficult," ante, at 132, the virtual impossibility of reliably predicting how
difficult it will be to win an election in 2, or 4, or 10 years should, in my view,
weigh in favor of holding such challenges nonjusticiable. Racial
gerrymandering should remain justiciable, for the harms it engenders run
counter to the central thrust of the Fourteenth Amendment. But no such
justification can be given for judicial intervention on behalf of mainstream
political parties, and the risks such intervention poses to our political
institutions are unacceptable. "Political affiliation is the keystone of the
political trade. Race, ideally, is not." United Jewish Organizations of
Williamsburgh, Inc. v. Carey, 430 U.S., at 171, n. 1, 97 S.Ct., at 1001, n. 1
(BRENNAN, J., concurring).
105 Justice POWELL, with whom Justice STEVENS joins, concurring in part and
dissenting in part.
106 This case presents the question whether a state legislature violates the Equal
Protection Clause by adopting a redistricting plan designed solely to preserve
the power of the dominant political party, when the plan follows the doctrine of
"one person, one vote" but ignores all other neutral factors relevant to the
fairness of redistricting.1
107 In answering this question, the plurality expresses the view, with which I agree,
that a partisan political gerrymander violates the Equal Protection Clause only
on proof of "both intentional discrimination against an identifiable political
group and an actual discriminatory effect on that group." Ante, at 127. The
plurality acknowledges that the record in this case supports a finding that the
challenged redistricting plan was adopted for the purpose of discriminating
against Democratic voters. Ibid The plurality argues, however, that appellees
failed to establish that their voting strength was diluted statewide despite
uncontradicted proof that certain key districts were grotesquely gerrymandered
to enhance the election prospects of Republican candidates. This argument
appears to rest solely on the ground that the legislature accomplished its
gerrymander consistent with "one person, one vote," in the sense that the
legislature designed voting districts of approximately equal population and
erected no direct barriers to Democratic voters' exercise of the franchise. Since

the essence of a gerrymandering claim is that the members of a political party


as a group have been denied their right to "fair and effective representation,"
Reynolds v. Sims, 377 U.S. 533, 565, 84 S.Ct. 1362, 1383, 12 L.Ed.2d 506
(1964), I believe that the claim cannot be tested solely by reference to "one
person, one vote." Rather, a number of other relevant neutral factors must be
considered. Because the plurality ignores such factors and fails to enunciate
standards by which to determine whether a legislature has enacted an
unconstitutional gerrymander, I dissent.
108 * The facts are exhaustively described in the District Court's opinion and may
be briefly restated here. In 1981, the Republican Party controlled both houses
of the Indiana General Assembly, and its candidate held the Governor's seat.
Pursuant to the requirements of the State Constitution, the General Assembly
undertook legislative redistricting based on 1980 census data. A Conference
Committee, all of whose members were Republicans, was assigned the task of
drawing district maps with the assistance of a private computer firm. The
information fed into the computer primarily concerned the political complexion
of the State's precincts. The redistricting process was conducted in secret.
Democratic legislators were not afforded any participation in designing the
district maps that were adopted. There were no hearings where members of the
public were invited to express their views. The Republican Committee revealed
its proposed redistricting plan two days before the end of the legislative
session, and the Democrats hurriedly presented an alternative plan. On the last
day of the session, the Republican plan was adopted by party line vote in both
Houses of the General Assembly. The Governor signed the plan into law.
109 In 1982 and 1984, elections were held under the new redistricting plan. Prior to
the 1982 election, this lawsuit was commenced by appellees, a group of Indiana
Democrats who claimed that the plan constitutes a partisan political
gerrymander designed to disenfranchise Democratic voters in violation of the
Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.2 Since trial was
completed after the 1982 election, appellees relied in part on the disparity
between votes cast for Democratic legislative candidates in that election and
seats captured by Democrats. The case was heard by a three-judge panel in the
District Court for the Southern District of Indiana. The District Court, over the
dissent of Judge Pell, made extensive findings of fact and determined that
appellees had established an unconstitutional partisan gerrymander. 603
F.Supp. 1479 (SD Ind.1984). The Court today reverses the District Court,
without concluding that any of its findings was clearly erroneous.
II

A.
110 Gerrymandering is "the deliberate and arbitrary distortion of district boundaries
and populations for partisan or personal political purposes." Kirkpatrick v.
Preisler, 394 U.S. 526, 538, 89 S.Ct. 1225, 1232, 22 L.Ed.2d 519 (1969)
(Fortas, J., concurring).3 As Justice STEVENS correctly observed,
gerrymandering violates the Equal Protection Clause only when the
redistricting plan serves "no purpose other than to favor one segmentwhether
racial, ethnic, religious, economic, or political that may occupy a position of
strength at a particular time, or to disadvantage a politically weak segment of
the community." Karcher v. Daggett, 462 U.S. 725, 748, 103 S.Ct. 2653, 2668,
77 L.Ed.2d 133 (1983) (concurring opinion).
111 The term "gerrymandering," however, is also used loosely to describe the
common practice of the party in power to choose the redistricting plan that
gives it an advantage at the polls. An intent to discriminate in this sense may be
present whenever redistricting occurs. See Gaffney v. Cummings, 412 U.S. 735,
753, 93 S.Ct. 2321, 2331, 37 L.Ed.2d 298 (1973); Cousins v. City Council of
Chicago, 466 F.2d 830, 847 (CA7) (STEVENS, J., dissenting), cert. denied,
409 U.S. 893, 93 S.Ct. 85, 34 L.Ed.2d 151 (1972). Moreover, since legislative
bodies rarely reflect accurately the popular voting strength of the principal
political parties, the effect of any particular redistricting may be perceived as
unfair. See 462 U.S., at 752-754, 103 S.Ct., at 2671-2672. Consequently, only a
sensitive and searching inquiry can distinguish gerrymandering in the "loose"
sense from gerrymandering that amounts to unconstitutional discrimination.
Because it is difficult to develop and apply standards that will identify the
unconstitutional gerrymander, courts may seek to avoid their responsibility to
enforce the Equal Protection Clause by finding that a claim of gerrymandering
is nonjusticiable. I agree with the Court that such a course is mistaken, and that
the allegations in this case raise a justiciable issue.4
112 Moreover, I am convinced that appropriate judicial standards can and should be
developed. Justice Fortas' definition of unconstitutional gerrymandering
properly focuses on whether the boundaries of the voting districts have been
distorted deliberately and arbitrarily to achieve illegitimate ends. Kirkpatrick v.
Preisler, supra, 394 U.S., at 538, 89 S.Ct., at 1232. Under this definition, the
merits of a gerrymandering claim must be determined by reference to the
configurations of the districts, the observance of political subdivision lines, and
other criteria that have independent relevance to the fairness of redistricting.
See Karcher v. Daggett, supra, 462 U.S., at 755-759, 103 S.Ct., at 2672-2675
(STEVENS, J., concurring). In this case, the District Court examined the
redistricting in light of such factors and found, among other facts, that the

boundaries of a number of districts were deliberately distorted to deprive


Democratic voters of an equal opportunity to participate in the State's
legislative processes. The plurality makes no reference to any of these findings
of fact. It rejects the District Court's ultimate conclusion with no explanation of
the respects in which appellees' proof fell short of establishing discriminatory
effect. A brief review of the Court's jurisprudence in the context of another kind
of challenge to redistricting, a claim of malapportionment, demonstrates the
pressing need for the Court to enunciate standards to guide legislators who
redistrict and judges who determine the constitutionality of the legislative
effort.
B
113 The Equal Protection Clause guarantees citizens that their State will govern
them impartially. See Karcher v. Daggett, supra, at 748, 103 S.Ct., at 2668
(STEVENS, J., concurring). In the context of redistricting, that guarantee is of
critical importance because the franchise provides most citizens their only
voice in the legislative process. Reynolds v. Sims, 377 U.S., at 561-562, 565566, 84 S.Ct., at 1381-1382, 1383-1384. Since the contours of a voting district
powerfully may affect citizens' ability to exercise influence through their vote,
district lines should be determined in accordance with neutral and legitimate
criteria. When deciding where those lines will fall, the State should treat its
voters as standing in the same position, regardless of their political beliefs or
party affiliation. Chapman v. Meier, 420 U.S. 1, 17, 95 S.Ct. 751, 761, 42
L.Ed.2d 766 (1975); Gaffney v. Cummings, supra, 412 U.S., at 751, 93 S.Ct., at
2330.
114 The first cases in which this Court entertained equal protection challenges to
redistricting involved allegations that state legislatures had refused to redesign
States' voting districts to eliminate gross population disparities among those
districts. E.g., Baker v. Carr, 369 U.S. 186, 82 S.Ct. 691, 7 L.Ed.2d 663 (1962);
Reynolds v. Sims, supra. The Court's decision in Reynolds v. Sims illustrates
two concepts that are vitally important in evaluating an equal protection
challenge to redistricting. First, the Court recognized that equal protection
encompasses a guarantee of equal representation, requiring a State to seek to
achieve through redistricting "fair and effective representation for all citizens."
Reynolds v. Sims, supra, 377 U.S., at 565-566, 84 S.Ct., at 1383; see Gaffney v.
Cummings, 412 U.S., at 748, 93 S.Ct., at 2329. The concept of "representation"
necessarily applies to groups: groups of voters elect representatives, individual
voters do not. Gross population disparities violate the mandate of equal
representation by denying voters residing in heavily populated districts, as a
group, the opportunity to elect the number of representatives to which their

voting strength otherwise would entitle them. While population disparities do


dilute the weight of individual votes, their discriminatory effect is felt only
when those individual votes are combined. Thus, the fact that individual voters
in heavily populated districts are free to cast their ballot has no bearing on a
claim of malapportionment.
115 Second, at the same time that it announced the principle of "one person, one
vote" to compel States to eliminate gross disparities among district populations,
the Court plainly recognized that redistricting should be based on a number of
neutral criteria, of which districts of equal population was only one. Reynolds v.
Sims identified several of the factors that should guide a legislature engaged in
redistricting. For example, the Court observed that districts should be compact
and cover contiguous territory, precisely because the alternative, "
[i]ndiscriminate districting," would be "an open invitation to partisan
gerrymandering." 377 U.S., at 578-579, 84 S.Ct., at 1390. Similarly, a State
properly could choose to give "independent representation" to established
political subdivisions. Adherence to community boundaries, the Court
reasoned, would both "deter the possibilities of gerrymandering," and allow
communities to have a voice in the legislature that directly controls their local
interests. Id., at 580-581, 84 S.Ct., at 1391-1392. See also Mahan v. Howell,
410 U.S. 315, 325-326, 93 S.Ct. 979, 985-986, 35 L.Ed.2d 320 (1973). Thus,
Reynolds v. Sims contemplated that "one person, one vote" would be only one
among several neutral factors that serve the constitutional mandate of fair and
effective representation. See Gaffney v. Cummings, supra, 412 U.S., at 748749, 93 S.Ct., at 2329-2330. It was not itself to be the only goal of
redistricting.5
116 A standard that judges the constitutionality of a districting plan solely by
reference to the doctrine of "one person, one vote" may cause two detrimental
results.6 First, as a perceived way to avoid litigation, legislative bodies may
place undue emphasis on mathematical exactitude, subordinating or ignoring
entirely other criteria that bear directly on the fairness of redistricting. See
Karcher v. Daggett, 462 U.S., at 753, 103 S.Ct., at 2671 (STEVENS, J.,
concurring); id., at 774, 103 S.Ct., at 2682 (WHITE, J., dissenting); Gaffney v.
Cummings, supra, 412 U.S., at 749, 93 S.Ct., at 2329. Second, as this case
illustrates, and as Reynolds v. Sims anticipated, exclusive or primary reliance on
"one person, one vote" can betray the constitutional promise of fair and
effective representation by enabling a legislature to engage intentionally in
clearly discriminatory gerrymandering. See Wells v. Rockefeller, 394 U.S. 542,
551, 89 S.Ct. 1239, 1240, 22 L.Ed.2d 519 (1969) (Harlan, J., dissenting).
C

117 In light of the foregoing principles, I believe that the plurality's opinion is
seriously flawed in several respects. First, apparently to avoid the forceful
evidence that some district lines indisputably were designed to and did
discriminate against Democrats, the plurality describes appellees' claim as
alleging that "Democratic voters over the State as a whole, not Democratic
voters in particular districts, have been subjected to unconstitutional
discrimination." Ante, at 127. This characterization is not inconsistent with
appellees' proof, and the District Court's finding, of statewide discriminatory
effect resulting from "individual districting" that "exemplif[ies] this
discrimination." Ibid. If Democratic voters in a number of critical districts are
the focus of unconstitutional discrimination, as the District Court found, the
effect of that discrimination will be felt over the State as a whole.
118 The plurality also erroneously characterizes the harm members of the losing
party suffer as a group when they are deprived, through deliberate and arbitrary
distortion of district boundaries, of the opportunity to elect representatives of
their choosing.7 It may be, as the plurality suggests, that representatives will not
"entirely ignore the interests" of opposition voters. Ante, at 132. But it defies
political reality to suppose that members of a losing party have as much
political influence over state government as do members of the victorious party.
Even the most conscientious state legislators do not disregard opportunities to
reward persons or groups who were active supporters in their election
campaigns. Similarly, no one doubts that partisan considerations play a major
role in the passage of legislation and the appointment of state officers. Not
surprisingly, therefore, the District Court expressly found that "[c]ontrol of the
General Assembly is crucial" to members of the major political parties in
Indiana. 603 F.Supp., at 1483.8 In light of those findings, I cannot accept the
plurality's apparent conclusion that loss of this "crucial" position is
constitutionally insignificant as long as the losers are not "entirely ignored" by
the winners.
119 The plurality relies almost exclusively on the "one person, one vote" standard
to reject appellees' convincing proof that the redistricting plan had a seriously
discriminatory effect on their voting strength in particular districts. The
plurality properly describes the claim in this case as a denial of fair and
effective "representation," ante, at 124, but it does not provide any explanation
of how complying with "one person, one vote" deters or identifies a
gerrymander that unconstitutionally discriminates against a cognizable group of
voters. While that standard affords some protection to the voting rights of
individuals, "it protects groups only indirectly at best," Karcher v. Daggett, 462
U.S., at 752, 103 S.Ct., at 2671 (STEVENS, J., concurring), even when the
group's identity is determined solely by reference to the fact that its members

reside in a particular voting district. "One person, one vote" alone does not
protect the voting rights of a group made up of persons affiliated with a
particular political party who seek to achieve representation through their
combined voting strength. Thus, the facts that the legislature permitted each
Democratic voter to cast his or her one vote, erected no direct barriers to
Democratic voters' exercise of the franchise, and drew districts of equal
population, are irrelevant to a claim that district lines were drawn for the
purpose and with the effect of substantially debasing the strength of votes cast
by Democrats as a group.9
120 The final and most basic flaw in the plurality's opinion is its failure to enunciate
any standard that affords guidance to legislatures and courts.10 Legislators and
judges are left to wonder whether compliance with "one person, one vote"
completely insulates a partisan gerrymander from constitutional scrutiny, or
whether a fairer but as yet undefined standard applies. The failure to articulate
clear doctrine in this area places the plurality in the curious position of inviting
further litigation even as it appears to signal the "constitutional green light" 11 to
would-be gerrymanderers.
III
121 In Karcher v. Daggett, Justice STEVENS, echoing the decision in Reynolds v.
Sims, described factors that I believe properly should guide both legislators
who redistrict and judges who test redistricting plans against constitutional
challenges. 462 U.S., at 753-761, 103 S.Ct., at 2671-2676. The most important
of these factors are the shapes of voting districts and adherence to established
political subdivision boundaries.12 Other relevant considerations include the
nature of the legislative procedures by which the apportionment law was
adopted and legislative history reflecting contemporaneous legislative goals. To
make out a case of unconstitutional partisan gerrymandering, the plaintiff
should be required to offer proof concerning these factors, which bear directly
on the fairness of a redistricting plan, as well as evidence concerning
population disparities and statistics tending to show vote dilution. No one factor
should be dispositive.13
122 In this case, appellees offered convincing proof of the ease with which
mapmakers, consistent with the "one person, one vote" standard, may design a
districting plan that purposefully discriminates against political opponents as
well as racial minorities. Computer technology now enables gerrymanderers to
achieve their purpose while adhering perfectly to the requirement that districts
be of equal population. Relying on the factors correctly described by Justice
STEVENS in Karcher v. Daggett, the District Court carefully reviewed

appellees' evidence and found that the redistricting law was intended to and did
unconstitutionally discriminate against Democrats as a group. We have held
that a district court's ultimate determination that a redistricting plan was "being
maintained for discriminatory purposes," as well as its "subsidiary findings of
fact," may not be set aside by a reviewing court unless they are clearly
erroneous. Rogers v. Lodge, 458 U.S. 613, 622-623, 102 S.Ct. 3272, 32783279, 73 L.Ed.2d 1012 (1982); see, e.g., White v. Regester, 412 U.S. 755, 769770, 93 S.Ct. 2332, 2341, 37 L.Ed.2d 314 (1973). The plurality ignores these
precedents.14 The plurality also disregards the various factors discussed by the
District Court as adequate indicia of unconstitutional gerrymandering.
123 * A court should look first to the legislative process by which the challenged
plan was adopted. Here, the District Court found that the procedures used in
redistricting Indiana were carefully designed to exclude Democrats from
participating in the legislative process. In February 1981, both Houses of the
General Assembly passed reapportionment bills with no substantive content
and referred them to the other chamber where conflicting amendments were
made. The purpose of this process was to send "vehicle bills" to a Conference
Committee whose task was to apportion representation. Four conferees and four
advisers served on the Committee. The conferees, all Republicans, were
responsible for designing the voting districts and were entitled to vote on the
result of their own efforts. The advisers, Democrats, were excluded from the
mapmaking process and were given no Committee vote. 603 F.Supp., at 1483.
124 The legislative process consisted of nothing more than the majority party's
private application of computer technology to mapmaking. The Republican
State Committee engaged the services of a computer firm to aid the conferees in
their task. Id., at 1483-1484. According to the Conference Committee
Chairman, the only data used in the computer program were precinct
population, race of precinct citizens, precinct political complexion, and
statewide party voting trends. Access to the mapmaking process was strictly
limited. No member of the Democratic Party and no member of the public was
provided with any of the information used in or generated by the computer
program. When questioned about the lack of minority party participation in the
redistricting process, the Chairman of the Conference Committee stated that the
Democrats would "have the privilege to offer a minority map. But I will advise
you in advance that it will not be accepted." Id., at 1484.
125 Republicans promised to hold public hearings on redistricting. No hearing was
held during the mapmaking process, the only time during which voters' views
could be expected to influence their legislators. Ibid. Two days before the end
of the General Assembly's regular session, during the first and only public

hearing on reapportionment, the Conference Committee revealed for the first


time the result of its mapmaking effort. This timing gave the Democrats but 40
hours in which to review the districting of more than 4,000 precincts. Ibid. On
the last day of the session, April 30, 1981, the Conference Committee report
was introduced for a vote and was adopted by party line vote in both Houses of
the General Assembly.15 Ibid.
B
126 Next, the District Court found that the maps "conspicuously ignore[d]
traditional political subdivisions, with no concern for any adherence to
principles of community interest." Id., at 1493. The court carefully described
how the mapmakers carved up counties, cities, and even townships in their
effort to draw lines beneficial to the majority party. Many districts meander
through several counties, picking up a number of townships from each.16 The
District Court explained why this failure to honor county boundaries could be
expected to have a detrimental impact on citizens' exercise of their vote. In
Indiana, the county government is the seat of local affairs. Id., at 1494. The
redistricting dissects counties into strange shapes lacking in common interests,
on one occasion even placing the seat of one county in a voting district
composed of townships from other counties. Id., at 1487; see House Districts
45, 46, infra. Under these conditions, the District Court expressly found that
"the potential for voter disillusion and nonparticipation is great," as voters are
forced to focus their political activities in artificial electoral units. 603 F.Supp.,
at 1494. Intelligent voters, regardless of party affiliation, resent this sort of
political manipulation of the electorate for no public purpose.
127 Deposition testimony of the Chairman of the Conference Committee revealed
that the mapmakers gave no consideration to the interests of communities. In
the Chairman's view, the concept of honoring community interests meant only
that mapmakers should refuse to divide a small, suburban community. The
shapes of the voting districts and the manner in which the districts divide
established communities, from the county to the township level, illustrate that
community interests were ignored by appellants. As the District Court
observed, for example, "it is difficult to conceive the interests shared by blacks
in Washington Township and white suburbanites in Hamilton and Boone
Counties, or the shared interest of Allen and Noble County farmers with
residents of downtown Fort Wayne." Id., at 1487.
C
128 In addition to the foregoing findings that apply to both the House and Senate

plans, the District Court also noted the substantial evidence that appellants
were motivated solely by partisan considerations. Id., at 1484. There is no
evidence that the public interest in a fair electoral process was given any
consideration by appellants. Indeed, as noted above, the mapmakers' partisan
goals were made explicitly clear by contemporaneous statements of Republican
leaders who openly acknowledged that their goal was to disadvantage
Democratic voters. As one Republican House member concisely put it, "[t]he
name of the game is to keep us in power." 17 NAACP Plaintiffs' Exhibit 232
(Indianapolis Star, Mar. 22, 1981, section 2, p. 3). When the plan was
completed, Republican leaders announced that the House map was designed to
yield 56 "safe" Republican seats and 30 Democratic seats, with the remainder
being "tossups." NAACP Plaintiffs' Exhibit 242 (Post-Tribune, Gary, Ind., Apr.
29, 1981, p. 1). Republicans expected that their Senate map would regularly
produce 30 Republican seats and 8 to 10 Democratic seats so that Republicans
would maintain their grip on the Senate even if Democrats won the remaining
seats. NAACP Plaintiffs' Exhibit 241 (Post-Tribune, Gary, Ind., Apr. 29, 1981,
p. 1). In short, the record unequivocally demonstrates that in 1981 the
Republican-dominated General Assembly deliberately sought to design a
redistricting plan under which members of the Democratic Party would be
deprived of a fair opportunity to win control of the General Assembly at least
until 1991, the date of the next redistricting.
IV
A.
129 I turn now to the District Court's findings with respect particularly to the
gerrymandering of the House districts. The court found that the plan contained
voting districts whose irrational shapes called for justification. E.g., House
Districts 20, 22, 25, 45, 46, 48, 62, 66, 70, 73. The findings concerning the
district configurations reflect the panel's familiarity with Indiana geography and
the particular characteristics of the State's political subdivisions. As the District
Court noted, the voter confusion generated by irrational district boundaries is
exacerbated in this case by the fact that the lines in the House plan were drawn
independently of those in the Senate plan. 603 F.Supp., at 1484-1485. When
the Senate voting districts are overlaid on the House Districts, the potential for
voter confusion becomes readily apparent as lines and districts intersect in a
crazy quilt.18
130 The District Court carefully considered the multimember districts contained in
the House plan and found that they were intentionally employed to minimize
Democratic voting power. This Court has expressly recognized that "[a]

districting plan may create multimember districts perfectly acceptable under


equal population standards, but invidiously discriminatory because they are
employed 'to minimize or cancel out the voting strength of racial or political
elements of the voting population.' " Gaffney v. Cummings, 412 U.S., at 751, 93
S.Ct., at 2330 (quoting Fortson v. Dorsey, 379 U.S. 433, 439, 85 S.Ct. 498,
501, 13 L.Ed.2d 401 (1965)). 19 In this case, invidious purpose may be inferred
from the mapmakers' selection of areas to be divided into multimember
districts. These districts appear in some areas where they had been used
previously and not in others, in some urban areas and not in others, and in some
areas where their use required combining rural townships with urban areas from
another county.20 The only discernible pattern is the appearance of these
districts in areas where their winner-take-all aspects can best be employed to
debase Democratic voting strength. The District Court determined that the
multimember districts diluted Democratic voting strength by "stacking"
Democrats into districts "where their majority would be overwhelming" and by
fragmenting populations of Democratic voters among other districts where their
voting strength would be reduced. 603 F.Supp., at 1488-1489, 1494. For
example, the mapmakers split Fort Wayne, a city with a demonstrated tendency
to vote for Democratic candidates, and associated each of the halves with areas
from outlying counties whose residents had a pattern of voting for Republican
candidates. Id., at 1488, 1494; see House Districts 19, 20. Similarly, the
redistricting of Marion County presents a clear example of dilution of
Democrats' voting strength through the use of multimember districts. Though
population figures entitled the county to elect exactly 14 House members, the
mapmakers decided to tack on portions of two neighboring counties in order
artificially to create a population base entitled to elect 15 representatives. Then,
they carved that artificial geographical unit into five three-member districts
whose irregular shapes were designed to fence Democrats into one heavily
Democratic district and scatter pockets of Democratic strength among the other
four districts. Id., at 1487, 1489; see House Districts 48, 49, 50, 51, 52.21
131 Appellees further demonstrated through a statistical showing that the House
plan debased the effectiveness of their votes. In 1982, all 100 House seats were
up for election. Democratic candidates received about 51.9 percent of the vote,
and Republican candidates received about 48.1 percent. Forty-three Democratic
representatives were elected; 57 Republicans were elected.22 Appellees offered
startling statistics with respect to House results in Marion and Allen Counties,
two areas in which multimember districts were used. In these counties,
Democratic candidates earned 46.3 percent of the vote, but won only 3 of 21
House seats. As the District Court observed, "such a disparity speaks for itself."
Id., at 1489. 23

B
132 Since half of the Senate membership is up for election every two years, the
only election results under the challenged plan available at trial related to 25 of
the 50 Senate seats. Those results showed that, of the seats up for election in
1982, Democrats were elected to 13 seats and Republicans to 12. Democratic
candidates earned about 53.1 percent of the vote, and Republicans received
about 46.9 percent. At trial, it was appellees' contention that most of the Senate
seats won by Democrats in 1982 were "safe" Democratic seats so that their
party's success at the polls in that year was fully consistent with the statewide
Republican gerrymander. This contention is borne out by the results of the
1984 Senate election. In that election, Democratic candidates received 42.3
percent of the vote, and Republicans 57.7 percent. Yet, of the 25 Senate
positions up for election, only 7 were captured by Democrats.24
C
133 The District Court found, and I agree, that appellants failed to justify the
discriminatory impact of the plan by showing that the plan had a rational basis
in permissible neutral criteria. Appellants' primary justification was that the
plan comports with the principle of "one person, one vote." Their plan did
adhere to that objective, with population deviations between House districts of
1.05 percent and between Senate districts of 1.15 percent. But reliance on "one
person, one vote" does not sufficiently explain or justify the discrimination the
plan inflicted on Democratic voters as a group. The District Court expressly
found that the irregular district shapes could not be justified on the basis of
population distribution. Id., at 1494. Nor does adherence to "one person, one
vote" excuse the mapmakers' failure to honor established political or
community boundaries. It does not excuse the irrational use of multimember
districts, with their devastating impact on the voting strength of Democrats.
The only other justification offered by appellants, for which the District Court
found some support as a contemporaneous goal, was that the mapmakers
sought to maintain "the black representation in the General Assembly that
existed prior to the new districting plan." But the court further determined that
the impact of the redistricting fell most harshly on black voters who
predominantly are Democrats. Id., at 1488, 1489-1490. None of these critical
findings was found by the plurality today to be clearly erroneous.
V
134 In conclusion, I want to make clear the limits of the standard that I believe the
Equal Protection Clause imposes on legislators engaged in redistricting.

Traditionally, the determination of electoral districts within a State has been a


matter left to the legislative branch of the state government. Apart from the
doctrine of separation of powers and the federal system prescribed by the
Constitution, federal judges are ill equipped generally to review legislative
decisions respecting redistricting. As the Court's opinion makes clear, however,
our precedents hold that a colorable claim of discriminatory gerrymandering
presents a justiciable controversy under the Equal Protection Clause. Federal
courts in exercising their duty to adjudicate such claims should impose a heavy
burden of proof on those who allege that a redistricting plan violates the
Constitution. In light of Baker v. Carr, Reynolds v. Sims, and their progeny,
including such comparatively recent decisions as Gaffney v. Cummings, this
case presents a paradigm example of unconstitutional discrimination against the
members of a political party that happened to be out of power. The wellgrounded findings of the District Court to this effect have not been, and I
believe cannot be, held clearly erroneous.
135 Accordingly, I would affirm the judgment of the District Court.25
136 [Maps of the Indiana House and Senate Districts follow this page]

Politically speaking, the State of Indiana is a "swing" State: It has supported


both the Democrats and the Republicans at various times, often following
national trends and major candidates. Although at times within the last few
decades the State has voted up to 56% Democratic, in 1980 the Republicans
took the State.

These bills were "vehicle bills"bills that had no real content. Both bills were
passed and were then referred to the other House and eventually to a
Conference Committee, which consisted entirely of Republican members. Four
Democratic "advisers" to the Committee were appointed, but they had no
voting powers. Further, they were excluded from the substantive work of the
Committee: The Republican State Committee funded a computerized study by
an outside firm that produced the districting map that was eventually used, and
the Democratic "advisers" were not allowed access to the computer or to the
results of the study. They nevertheless attempted to develop apportionment
proposals of their own using the 1980 census data. A few days before the end
of the 1981 legislative session, the Conference Committee presented its plan to
the legislature. The Democratic minority also presented its alternative plan. The
majority plan was passed in both Houses with voting along party lines and was
signed into law by the Governor.

A multitude of conflicting statistical evidence was also introduced at the trial.


The District Court, however, specifically declined to credit any of this evidence,
noting that it did not "wish to choose which statistician is more credible or less
credible." 603 F.Supp., at 1485.

The court noted that various House districts combined urban and suburban or
rural voters with dissimilar interests and that many of the districts were
unwieldy shapes. Using Marion County as one example, the court observed that
the county itself had exactly the population to support 14 House seats;
nevertheless, it was combined with various surrounding areas to form five
triple-member districts, which maintained the county's prior 15-member
delegation even though it had in fact suffered a population decrease. Believing
that the resulting multi-member districts were suspect in terms of compactness,
the court concluded that no rational reason could support them.

In addition, the court quoted from the deposition testimony of the Speaker of
the House as follows:
"MR. SUSSMAN: What I would like you to do here again is to give me
whatever reasons were operative to your mind in maintaining or creating multimember districts with regard to (Districts) 48 through 52 [the Marion County
districts].
"MR. DAILEY: Political.
"MR. SUSSMAN: What were the political factors?
"MR. DAILEY: We wanted to save as many incumbent Republicans as
possible." Id., at 1484.
The court also quoted from the deposition testimony of Senator Bosma as
follows:
"MR. SUSSMAN: This (newspaper) article says further, 'Under further
questioning from Townsend about input in actual map drawing, Bosma said
"You will have the privilege to offer a minority map. But I will advise you in
advance that it will not be accepted." ' Is that accurate?
"MR. BOSMA: That's accurate. I might add that I don't make goals for the
opposite team." Ibid.

These are familiar techniques of political gerrymandering. Democratic (or


Republican, as the case may be) votes are "stacked" and "wasted" by creating
districts where Democrats form majorities much greater than the 50%

necessary to carry those districts. Concurrently, Republican votes are spread


among districts in which they form safe, perhaps 55%, majorities, and
Democratic votes are "cracked" or "split" by dispersing them in such a way as
to be ineffectual.
7

Judge Pell, writing in dissent, disagreed. Assuming for the purposes of his
analysis that a political gerrymandering case was justiciable, he concluded that
the appellees had not proved discrimination. Rather, once the relative voting
strengths were properly ascertained, it was his view that the plan had
advantaged and disadvantaged both parties equally: The Democrats won more
than their voting strength in the Senate and less in the House. See id., at 15011502. Judge Pell also rejected the majority's analysis of the multimember
districts and thought that the State had followed rational nondiscriminatory
criteria in formulating the 1981 plan.

Consolidated with this suit in the proceedings below was another lawsuit, filed
by the Indiana NAACP. The NAACP suit challenged the plans as
unconstitutional dilutions of the black vote in Indiana in violation of the
Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments and the Voting Rights Act of 1965, 42
U.S.C. 1973 (as amended).
In rejecting the NAACP claims, the District Court majority found: "[T]he
voting efficacy of the NAACP plaintiffs was impinged upon because of their
politics and not because of their race. It is not in dispute that blacks in this state
vote overwhelmingly Democratic." 603 F.Supp., at 1489-1490. Consequently,
the majority found no Fifteenth Amendment or Voting Rights Act violation.
The dissent concurred with this result but gave different reasons for reaching
this conclusion.
The NAACP did not appeal these dispositions. Consequently, the only claims
now before us are the political gerrymandering claims.

As to the illegitimate policy determinations that Justice O'CONNOR believes


that we have made, she points to two. The first is a preference for nonpartisan
as opposed to partisan gerrymanders, and the second is a preference for
proportionality. On a group level, however, which must be our focus in this
type of claim, neither of these policy determinations is "of a kind clearly for
nonjudicial discretion." Baker v. Carr, 369 U.S. 186, at 217, 82 S.Ct. 691, 710,
7 L.Ed.2d 663 (1962). The first merely recognizes that nonpartisan
gerrymanders in fact are aimed at guaranteeing rather than infringing fair group
representation. The second, which is not a preference for proportionality per se
but a preference for a level of parity between votes and representation sufficient
to ensure that significant minority voices are heard and that majorities are not

consigned to minority status, is hardly an illegitimate extrapolation from our


general majoritarian ethic and the objective of fair and adequate representation
recognized in Reynolds v. Sims, 377 U.S. 533, 84 S.Ct. 1362, 12 L.Ed.2d 506
(1964).
10

This passage from Gaffney expresses a view similar to that of Robert G. Dixon,
Jr., one of the foremost scholars of reapportionment, who observed:
"[W]hether or not nonpopulation factors are expressly taken into account in
shaping political districts, they are inevitably everpresent and operative. They
influence all election outcomes in all sets of districts. The key concept to grasp
is that there are no neutral lines for legislative districts . . . every line drawn
aligns partisans and interest blocs in a particular way different from the
alignment that would result from putting the line in some other place." Dixon,
Fair Criteria and Procedures for Establishing Legislative Districts 7-8, in
Representation and Redistricting Issues (B. Grofman, A. Lijphart, R. McKay,
& H. Scarrow eds. 1982).

11

That discriminatory intent may not be difficult to prove in this context does not,
of course, mean that it need not be proved at all to succeed on such a claim.

12

Although these cases involved racial groups, we believe that the principles
developed in these cases would apply equally to claims by political groups in
individual districts. We note, however, that the elements necessary to a
successful vote dilution claim may be more difficult to prove in relation to a
claim by a political group. For example, historical patterns of exclusion from
the political processes, evidence which would support a vote dilution claim, are
in general more likely to be present for a racial group than for a political group.

13

Although this opinion relies on our cases relating to challenges by racial groups
to individual multimember districts, nothing herein is intended in any way to
suggest an alteration of the standards developed in those cases for evaluating
such claims.

14

The requirement of a threshold showing is derived from the peculiar


characteristics of these political gerrymandering claims. We do not contemplate
that a similar requirement would apply to our Equal Protection cases outside of
this particular context.

15

The District Court apparently thought that the political group suffering
discrimination was all those voters who voted for Democratic Assembly
candidates in 1982. Judge Pell, in dissent, argued that the allegedly disfavored
group should be defined as those voters who could be counted on to vote
Democratic from election to election, thus excluding those who vote the

Republican ticket from time to time. He would have counted the true believers
by averaging the Democratic vote cast in two different elections for those
statewide offices for which party-line voting is thought to be the rule and
personality and issue-oriented factors are relatively unimportant. Although
accepting Judge Pell's definition of Democratic voters would have strongly
suggested that the 1981 reapportionment had no discriminatory effect at all,
there was no response to his position. The appellees take up the challenge in
this Court, claiming that Judge Pell chose the wrong election years for the
purpose of averaging the Democratic votes. The dispute need not now be
resolved.
16

It should be noted that even if the District Court correctly identified


constitutional shortcomings in the House districting, this did not automatically
call for invalidating the provisions for the Senate. The only relevant fact about
the Senate appearing in the District Court's findings is that in the 1982 elections
to fill 25 Senate seats, Democrats won 53.1% of the statewide vote and elected
13 of their candidates. That on its face is hardly grounds for invalidating the
Senate districting, and we have counselled before against striking down an
entire apportionment statute when the constitutional evil could be cured by
lesser means. Whitcomb v. Chavis, 403 U.S., at 160-161, 91 S.Ct., at 18771878.

17

Although Justice POWELL asserts that we mischaracterize these cases and that
any effects in addition to disproportionality were required to be demonstrated
only to prove discriminatory intent, we note that the effects test we cite was
initially set forth in White v. Regester, 412 U.S. 755, 93 S.Ct. 2332, 37 L.Ed.2d
314 (1973), which was decided before the Court expressly determined that
proof of discriminatory intent was a necessary component of an equal
protection claim. Moreover, the Voting Rights Act, which to a large extent
borrowed the effects test from White, explicitly declined to require any showing
of discriminatory intent. It may be true that our more recent cases have turned
on the question of discriminatory intent, but that does not imply that we have
abandoned the effects discussion we adopted earlier. Moreover, we believe that
Justice POWELL incorrectly asserts that more than one election must pass
before a successful racial or political gerrymandering claim may be brought.
Post, at 171-172, n. 10 (concurring in part and dissenting in part). Projected
election results based on district boundaries and past voting patterns may
certainly support this type of claim, even where no election has yet been held
under the challenged districting.

18

Justice POWELL proffers additional election results from the 1984 elections in
support of his conclusion. These results were not considered by the District
Court, and we decline to determine their significance without the benefit of any

factual development as to their meaning in terms of Democratic power overall


or in the long run. Nevertheless, we note that in terms of actual percentages, the
1984 House election results cited by Justice POWELL exhibited less of a
discrepancy between Democratic votes cast and Democratic representatives
elected than did the 1982 results (5% as opposed to 8%). This casts at least
some doubt on the import of the 1982 results.
19

In most equal protection cases, it is true, a discriminatory effect will be readily


apparent, and no heightened effect will be required, see n. 14, supra, but that is
the only real difference between this type of equal protection claim and others.

20

Thus, we have rejected none of the District Court's subsidiary factual


conclusions. We have merely, based on our view of the applicable law,
disregarded those that were irrelevant in this case and held insufficient those
that inadequately supported the District Court's ultimate legal conclusions.
Specifically, we have not rejected the District Court's finding of discriminatory
intent. Nor have we rejected the District Court's findings as to any of the
election results or the contours of particular districts. We have simply
determined that aside from the election results, none of the facts found by the
District Court were relevant to the question of discriminatory effects.
Consequently, since we did not need to progress beyond that point, given our
conclusion that no unconstitutional discriminatory effects were shown as a
matter of law, we did not need to consider the District Court's factual findings
on the other "factors" addressed by Justice POWELL.

21

Although we recognize the difficulty of this inquiry, we do not share Justice


O'CONNOR's apparent lack of faith in the lower courts' abilities to distinguish
between disproportionality per se and the lack of fair representation that
continued disproportionality in conjunction with other indicia may
demonstrate. See post, at 157 (opinion concurring in judgment).

22

We are puzzled by Justice POWELL's conclusion that we contemplate a test


under which only the "one person, one vote" requirement has any relevance.
This opinion clearly does not adopt such a limited review.

This opinion uses the term "redistricting" to refer to the process by which state
legislators draw the boundaries of voting districts. The terms "redistricting,"
"apportionment," and "reapportionment" frequently are used interchangeably.
Backstrom, Robins, & Eller, Issues in Gerrymandering: An Exploratory
Measure of Partisan Gerrymandering Applied to Minnesota, 62 Minn.L.Rev.
1121, 1121, n. 1 (1978); Grofman, Criteria for Districting: A Social Science
Perspective, 33 UCLA L.Rev. 77, 78, n. 6 (1985). Technically, the words
"apportionment" and "reapportionment" apply to the "allocation of a finite

number of representatives among a fixed number of pre-established areas,"


while "districting" and "redistricting" refer to the drawing of district lines.
Backstrom, Robins, & Eller, supra, at 1121, n. 1; see Grofman, supra, at 78, n.
6.
2

In the District Court, appellees' lawsuit was consolidated with a suit brought by
the Indiana NAACP. The plaintiffs in the NAACP suit argued that the
redistricting intentionally fragmented concentrations of black voters in violation
of the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments, and of 2 of the Voting Rights
Act of 1965, 42 U.S.C. 1973. The District Court determined that the plan
discriminated against black voters, not because of their race, but because blacks
had a demonstrated and overwhelming tendency to vote as a bloc for
Democratic candidates. Indeed, the District Court explicitly found that the
"disadvantaging effect of the plan's multi-member districts falls particularly
hard and harsh upon black voters in the state." 603 F.Supp. 1479, 1488 (SD
Ind.1984). Rather than taking a cross-appeal challenging the District Court's
rejection of their constitutional and statutory claims, the NAACP plaintiffs have
filed a brief in this Court urging affirmance of the District Court's judgment that
the plan unconstitutionally discriminates against Democratic voters as a group
and against blacks as members of that group.

Webster's Third New International Dictionary (unabridged ed. 1961) defines


"gerrymander" as "to divide (a territorial unit) into election districts in an
unnatural and unfair way with the purpose of giving one political party an
electoral majority in a large number of districts while concentrating the voting
strength of the opposition in as few districts as possible." The term
"gerrymander" was coined by combining the last name of Elbridge Gerry with
the word "salamander" in order to describe the "fancied resemblance to a
salamander . . . of the irregularly shaped outline of an election district in
northeastern Massachusetts that had been formed for partisan purposes in 1812
during Gerry's governorship" of that State. Ibid. Though many of the voting
districts appearing in the plans challenged here have bizarre shapes, House
District 66 perhaps most closely resembles a salamander. See the redistricting
maps appended to this opinion. These maps were reproduced from trial exhibits
provided by the parties.

As the Court properly explains, our prior decisions make clear that an equal
protection challenge to redistricting does not present a nonjusticiable political
question. See Baker v. Carr, 369 U.S. 186, 82 S.Ct. 691, 7 L.Ed.2d 663 (1962);
Reynolds v. Sims, 377 U.S. 533, 84 S.Ct. 1362, 12 L.Ed.2d 506 (1964); Gaffney
v. Cummings, 412 U.S. 735, 93 S.Ct. 2321, 37 L.Ed.2d 298 (1973).
Accordingly, I join Part II of Justice WHITE's opinion.

The doctrine of "one person, one vote" originally was regarded as a means to
prevent discriminatory gerrymandering since "opportunities for gerrymandering
are greatest when there is freedom to construct unequally populated districts."
Kirkpatrick v. Preisler, 394 U.S. 526, 534, n. 4, 89 S.Ct. 1225, 1230, n. 4, 22
L.Ed.2d 519 (1969). Advances in computer technology achieved since the
doctrine was announced have drastically reduced its deterrent value by
permitting political cartographers to draw districts of equal population that
intentionally discriminate against cognizable groups of voters. See Karcher v.
Daggett, 462 U.S. 725, 752, n. 10, 103 S.Ct. 2653, 2671, n. 10, 77 L.Ed.2d 133
(1983) (STEVENS, J., concurring). For "one person, one vote" to serve its
intended purpose of implementing the constitutional mandate of fair and
effective representation, therefore, consideration also must be given to other
neutral factors.

In decisions concerning congressional redistricting, the Court has focused its


attention almost exclusively on whether a challenged plan satisfies "one person,
one vote." See Karcher v. Daggett, supra; White v. Weiser, 412 U.S. 783, 93
S.Ct. 2348, 37 L.Ed.2d 335 (1973); Kirkpatrick v. Preisler, supra. In cases
involving state legislative redistricting, such as the case before us today, the
Court has refused to limit a legislature to the single goal of precise population
equality. Gaffney v. Cummings, 412 U.S., at 745, 93 S.Ct., at 2327; Mahan v.
Howell, 410 U.S. 315, 322-325, 93 S.Ct. 979, 984-985, 35 L.Ed.2d 320 (1973).

The plurality correctly concludes that a redistricting plan is not unconstitutional


merely because the plan makes it more difficult for a group of voters to elect
the candidate of its choice or merely because the plan does not provide
proportional representation. Ante, at 132. While the "Equal Protection Clause
confers a substantive right to participate in elections on an equal basis with
other qualified voters," Mobile v. Bolden, 446 U.S. 55, 77, 100 S.Ct. 1490,
1505, 64 L.Ed.2d 47 (1980) (plurality opinion), the Constitution does not
guarantee proportional representation or protect any group from defeat at the
polls, id., at 77-80, 100 S.Ct., at 1505-1507; see White v. Regester, 412 U.S.
755, 765-766, 93 S.Ct. 2332, 2339-2340, 37 L.Ed.2d 314 (1973). But the
plurality leaps from that conclusion to the assumption that "[a]n individual or a
group of individuals who votes for a losing candidate is usually deemed to be
adequately represented by the winning candidate and to have as much
opportunity to influence that candidate as other voters in the district." Ante, at
132. Thus, the plurality apparently believes that effects on election results are
of little import, as long as the losers have some access to their representatives.
Though effects on election results do not suffice to establish an unconstitutional
gerrymander, they certainly are relevant to such a claim, and they may suffice
to show that the claimants have been injured by the redistricting they challenge.

The District Court found: "Control of the General Assembly is crucial to a


political party for a number of reasons. The majority party elects the Speaker of
the House, a person who wields considerable power in the assigning of bills to
committees, the conduct of the actual legislative sessions, and is empowered,
under legislative rules, to prevent bills from reaching the floor for debate or
vote. Similarly, the majority party elects floor leaders in both houses who
control the flow of legislation, the assignment of members to committees, and
the appointment of committee chairmen. All of these powers are important to
the achievement of a party's legislative goals. There is little doubt that the
minority party plays a less substantial role in the drafting and enactment of
legislation." 603 F.Supp., at 1483.

As was said in the context of a constitutional challenge by black voters to an atlarge voting scheme, "[t]he absence of official obstacles to registration, voting,
and running for office heretofore has never been deemed to insulate an electoral
system" from constitutional attack. Mobile v. Bolden, supra, 446 U.S., at 102,
100 S.Ct., at 1518 (WHITE, J., dissenting).

10

The plurality describes its standard as requiring a "threshold" showing that the
"electoral system is arranged in a manner that will consistently degrade a
voter's or a group of voters' influence in the political process as a whole." Ante,
at 132; see ante, at 134, n. 14. Plaintiffs apparently can meet the plurality's
"threshold" only after a number of elections have been held under the
challenged plan. Ante, at 135-136. At one point, the plurality acknowledges that
this formulation is "somewhat different" from any standard we have previously
used to test an electoral plan against an equal protection challenge, ante, at 132,
and also takes pains to say that its opinion here does not suggest any "alteration
of the standards developed" for evaluating racial challenges, ante, at 132, n. 13;
see ante, at 134, n. 14. Curiously, the plurality then goes on to claim that its
standard is consistent
with that used when a racial group challenges an electoral scheme, ante, at 139140, and with our "equal protection cases generally," ante, at 141. This claim is
simply incorrect.
Our cases have construed the Equal Protection Clause to require proof of
intentional discrimination, placing the burden on plaintiffs to trace the "
'invidious quality of a law claimed to be racially discriminatory . . . to a racially
discriminatory purpose.' " Rogers v. Lodge, 458 U.S. 613, 616, 102 S.Ct. 3272,
3275, 73 L.Ed.2d 1012 (1982), quoting Washington v. Davis, 426 U.S. 229,
240, 96 S.Ct. 2040, 2048, 48 L.Ed.2d 597 (1976). In none of those cases was
the Court willing to assume discriminatory intent, as the plurality suggests
today is the proper course. Ante, at 141. While the plurality correctly observes

that our prior decisions have held that disproportionate election results alone do
not violate the Constitution, it erroneously suggests that those holdings flowed
solely from the "perception that the power to influence the political process is
not limited to winning elections." Ante, at 131-132. The plurality wholly ignores
the basic problem underlying all of those prior decisions, namely, that the
plaintiffs came into court with no direct proof of discriminatory intent. In those
cases, the Court concluded that proof of discriminatory effect, including
disproportionate election results, if serious enough, could give rise to an
inference of purposeful discrimination. See Rogers v. Lodge, supra, 458 U.S., at
618, 102 S.Ct., at 3276. As Justice WHITE has explained, the Court's decisions
in both White v. Regester, 412 U.S. 755, 93 S.Ct. 2332, 37 L.Ed.2d 314 (1973),
and Whitcomb v. Chavis, 403 U.S. 124, 91 S.Ct. 1858, 29 L.Ed.2d 363 (1971),
rested on the proposition that the requisite "invidious discriminatory purpose"
can be inferred from proof of "objective factors" concerning discriminatory
effect. Mobile v. Bolden, 446 U.S., at 95, 100 S.Ct., at 1514; see id., at 94-97,
102-103, 100 S.Ct., at 1517-1518 (dissenting opinion); see also White v.
Regester, supra, 412 U.S., at 765, 93 S.Ct., at 2339 (multimember districts are
unconstitutional where "used invidiously to cancel out" racial groups' voting
strength). I cannot agree, as the plurality suggests, that a standard requiring
proof of "heightened effect," where invidious intent has been established
directly, has support in any of our cases, or that an equal protection violation
can be established "only where a history (actual or projected) of
disproportionate results appears." Ante, at 139. If a racial minority established
that the legislature adopted a redistricting law for no purpose other than to
disadvantage that group, the plurality's new and erroneous standard would
require plaintiffs to wait for the results of several elections, creating a history of
discriminatory effect, before they can challenge the law in court. Ante, at 135136.
11

Edwards, The Gerrymander and "One Man, One Vote," 46 N.Y.U.L.Rev. 879,
880 (1971).

12

In some cases, proof of grotesque district shapes may, without more, provide
convincing proof of unconstitutional gerrymandering. In addition to the maps
appended to this opinion, see the redistricting maps appended to the Court's
opinions in Gomillion v. Lightfoot, 364 U.S. 339, 348, 81 S.Ct. 125, 130, 5
L.Ed.2d 110 (1960), and in Karcher v. Daggett, 462 U.S., at 744, 103 S.Ct., at
2665.

13

Groups may consistently fail to elect representatives under a perfectly neutral


election scheme. Thus, a test that turns only on election results, as the
plurality's standard apparently does, likely would identify an unconstitutional
gerrymander where none existed. The test that I would adopt requires

consideration of all the circumstances surrounding the plan, including factors


initially identified in Reynolds v. Sims, to determine if a constitutional violation
has occurred. Since democracy can work well and fairly only when citizens
have an opportunity to become familiar with their voting districts, where they
must focus their political activities, district boundaries must have some
rationality. Confusion inevitably follows, as clearly will be the case in Indiana,
when a citizen finds himself or herself forced to associate with several artificial
communities, depending on which office is on the ballot. Thus, irrational lines
themselves affect the ability of all voters to exercise their political influence,
with disproportionate election results illustrating the effect of a plan that was
deliberately designed to serve no purpose other than to minimize the voting
strength of a disfavored group.
14

The plurality ignores the "clearly erroneous" standard of Rule 52(a), by saying
that it has not rejected any of the District Court's findings of fact, but has
"merely . . . disregarded those that were irrelevant in this case and held
insufficient those that inadequately supported the District Court's ultimate legal
conclusions." Ante, at 142, n. 20. In a gerrymandering case the facts as to how,
where, and why the legislature drew the district boundaries are at the heart of
the equal protection violation. Beyond stating that appellees' statistical proof
failed to satisfy its proposed threshold, the plurality makes no effort to explain
its flat assertions that the District Court's careful findings were "irrelevant" or
"insufficient."

15

Presumably as a result of the haste with which the redistricting law was pushed
through the General Assembly, parts of the State were "wholly omitted in the
1981 legislation." 603 F.Supp., at 1484. In the 1982 legislative session,
therefore, amendments were passed to assign the omitted areas to voting
districts. Ibid.

16

E.g., House Districts 20, 22, 25, 28, 42, 45, 46, 55, 57, 62, 66, 70, 73, 74;
Senate Districts 7, 24, 37, 39, 45, 47. See the redistricting maps appended to
this opinion.

17

Evidence of partisan sparring during the redistricting process, of course, is not


sufficient to establish an equal protection violation or to show that the
legislature pursued no legitimate objectives in adopting the plan. But such
evidence is probative of contemporaneous legislative goals, adding support to
the objective facts showing that the legislature adopted the plan for the sole
purpose of disadvantaging members of the political party that happened to be
out of power.

18

Since the Indiana House of Representatives has 100 members, and the Senate

has 50, the mapmakers readily could have designed a "nested" plan, that is, a
plan that included "two House districts within one Senate district." 603
F.Supp., at 1484-1485. By permitting voters readily to identify their voting
districts and corresponding representatives, a nested plan can be expected to
foster voter participation. See Grofman, 33 UCLA L.Rev., at 88, 92. Instead, as
the District Court observed, the mapmakers drew House districts that were "not
at all relevant to the Senate districts." 603 F.Supp., at 1484.
19

In the context of racial gerrymandering claims, the Court has refused to adopt a
per se rule barring the use of multimember districts. White v. Regester, 412
U.S., at 765, 93 S.Ct., at 2339. But the Court has repeatedly recognized that the
characteristics of multimember districts, namely, their tendency to submerge
the voting strength of the minority by allowing the majority to capture all of the
district's assigned seats, make them a ready means for legislative discrimination
against racial groups or political opponents. E.g., Rogers v. Lodge, 458 U.S., at
616, 102 S.Ct., at 3275.

20

The multimember districts are House Districts 7, 9, 10, 11, 12, 14, 15, 19, 20,
31, 48, 49, 50, 51, 52, 75.

21

The District Court found that the multimember districts employed in Marion
County were "particularly suspect with respect to compactness." 603 F.Supp., at
1487. Of all the districts in the challenged plan, the court determined that
House District 48 "presents the most grievous example of the political
cartographer's handiwork in this case." Ibid. That district "forms the letter 'C'
around the central city of Indianapolis" and "includes portions of the urban
southwestside of the city, the airport and suburban
area around Ben Davis High School on the west side, and the Meridian Hills
area at the northern part of the county." Ibid. The court expressly determined
that, even though House District 48 satisfies "one person, one vote," there was
"simply no conceivable justification for this kind of district." Ibid.
The following map, taken from an exhibit provided by the parties, shows this
grotesque gerrymandering. The legislature first proceeded to disregard Marion
County's boundary lines, which essentially form a square, and then carved the
area it created into oddly shaped multimember districts.
The District Court also noted the discriminatory purpose served by the Marion
County House Districts, including District 48: "[T]he powerful Marion County
delegation forced neighboring counties to cede turf to permit a preservation of
the multi-member districts which had consistently returned Republicans to the
Statehouse." Id., at 1487, n. 1. Moreover, as appellees' statistical showing of
vote dilution plainly demonstrates, these gerrymandered districts had a

discriminatory impact on the votes of Democrats as a group.


22

In the 1984 election, Democratic candidates earned approximately 44 percent


of the vote, and Republicans earned approximately 56 percent. Thirty-nine
Democrats were elected to the House, and 61 Republicans were elected. The
figures for the 1984 elections cited in this opinion were provided by the
Elections Research Center, Washington, D.C. A supplemental statement filed
by appellants in the District Court following trial also quoted some of the 1984
election results, including the fact that in 1984 the Democratic candidate for
Governor won 48 percent of the vote.

23

The 1984 House election in the Marion and Allen County House districts
reflected a similar disparity, when Republicans again captured 18 of the 21
House seats and the Democrats 3 despite the fact that Democratic candidates
earned approximately 38 percent of the vote in these counties.

24

The District Court's discussion of district shapes focused primarily on the


House plan. As the following map of the Senate districts in the Marion County
area illustrates, the Senate plan also contains districts with unusual shapes.
Although the population of Marion County, whose boundary lines form a
square, was entitled to elect exactly seven Senators, 603 F.Supp., at 1487, n. 1,
the mapmakers ignored both that population figure and the county boundaries,
and created eight wholly irrational voting districts. As one Democratic voter
remarked when the Senate plan was unveiled: "People who live near the
[district line separating Senate districts 33 and 34] are going to need an Indian
guide and a compass to figure out which district they're in." NAACP Plaintiffs'
Exhibit 252 (Indianapolis Star, May 10, 1981, section 2, p. 3).

25

As is evident from the several opinions filed today, there is no "Court" for a
standard that properly should be applied in determining whether a challenged
redistricting plan is an unconstitutional partisan political gerrymander. The
standard proposed by the plurality is explicitly rejected by two Justices, and
three Justices also have expressed the view that the plurality's standard will
"prove unmanageable and arbitrary." Ante, at 155 (O'CONNOR, J., joined by
BURGER, C.J., and REHNQUIST, J., concurring in judgment).
Page 185-Continued